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I vt -^ 









1 901 

BUTLER & Tanner, 

The Selwood printing works, 

frome, and london. 














'H O / » -^ -* 


MANY books are now written about distant lands 
by those who have only a very slight acquaint- 
ance with them, and such usually form very pleasant 
reading. Burma has received a fair share of this sort 
of attention from casual visitors, but the present work is 
not one of these books written in lighter vein. It is 
intended to be a comprehensive treatise on one of the 
richest provinces of our Indian Empire, and it embodies 
knowledge and experience acquired there in a service 
extending over nearly twenty-five years. 

During that time great political, commercial, and social 
changes have taken place throughout Burma and among 
the Burmese, and the main objects of this book are 
to describe these, and to show how they have already 
affected and are bound still more to affect the land and 
the people. It tries to describe the latter as they were, 
and as they now are. The historical sketch of Burma 
has been confined solely to what is necessary in order to 
understand the position of affairs at different times. 

The author feels that some explanation is needed for 
the appearance of these volumes. The work was under- 
taken for the simple reason that no comprehensive book 
has been published about Burma since it came entirely: 
under British rule in 1886, although the record of the 
material progress achieved seems well worthy of being 
submitted to the public in some such convenient form. 
Matters affecting the life and habits of the Burmese have 
also been treated in a way which it is hoped may be 
of use to those going to spend the best years of their 
lives in Burma, and this is the reason why so many 
Burmese terms have been introduced and explained. 
An endeavour has at the same time been made to in- 
dicate various commercial openings for investment of 
capital, because the development of a rich Indian pro- 
vince ought surely to be worthy of consideration by 
British capitalists. 


The plan of the book was sketched early in 1896, and 
several chapters of it were then written, but press of 
official work prevented its completion till the leisure of 
furlough from 1898-1900. In the meantime the official 
Gazetteer of Upper Burma has been published, which 
also deals with many of the matters here treated of. 
The two works, however, cannot in any way clash. The 
one is an official record, the other is an independent 
publication meant for such of the general public as may 
feel an interest in Burma or in its administration by the 
British. If there be any similarity between portions of 
the two books with regard to matters specially affecting 
Upper Burma, this can only be due to the fact that 
the actual historical data have been obtained from the 
same sources, because neither a'othor has yet seen the 
work of the other. 

The scheme which has been followed was to treat each 
subject comprehensively in a chapter by itself. One 
drawback to this method is the necessity for occasional 
repetitions and references to previous pages, but the 
advantages seemed to outweigh this disadvantage. 

The French position in Indo-China has of course been 
dealt with at considerable length. But even since the 
chapter dealing with "Britain and France in Further India 
and Western China" has been passed for press, matters 
affecting French railway enterprise in south-western 
China have again advanced. The latest account of the 
existing position will be found in an article on " The 
French Railway into Yun-nan " in the Times of July 22, 
1 90 1, to which the attention of those specially interested 
in this subject may be drawn. 

A book of this description can hardly appeal to any 
large circle of readers, and it is not at all likely to com- 
mand anything but a very limited sale. It is therefore 
in no small degree owing to assistance kindly guaranteed 
by the leading steamship companies and the merchants 
of Rangoon that its publication has been assured, and 
the author gladly takes this opportunity of thanking them 
for the encouragement thus given. 

London, August 15, 1901. 






TO 1880 26 



THE THIRD BURMESE WAR (1885). .... 82 
















MESE LAW (1882) 454 





DISTRICT) Frontispiece 


THE ROYAL CITY OF MANDALAY . . . To face p. 198 






SOUTHERN CHINA To face p. 16 



chapter I 


THE early history of Burma is wrapped in the mists 
of traditional legends, which afterwards became 
crystallised in the Yazawin or Royal Chronicles. Formed 
by the fusion and union of Mongol tribes, the Burmese 
probably drove the earlier settlers out of the valleys into 
the mountain fastnesses, where they form the wild hill- 
tribes of the present day. 

Successive waves of immigration seem to have burst 
in from the north-west, due to incursions from Upper 
India, each fresh immigration forcing southwards towards 
the sea those who had established themselves in the 
fertile valley of the Irrawaddy river. 

In course of time various independent kingdoms 
sprang up, so that when the truly historical epoch was 
reached separate nations, with dynasties of their own, 
held sway in different parts of the country. Thus there 
arose the petty kingdoms of Arakan, Pegu, and Tavoy 
along the coastline, of Prome and Toungoo in Central 
Burma, and of Burma proper in the upper portion of the 
Irrawaddy valley. 

Internecine warfare was habitual among these various 
petty kingdoms, though Arakan and Tavoy, thanks to 
their geographical position, suffered much less on this 
account than the central principalities occupying different 
portions of the Irrawaddy valley. 

Arakan formed a separate kingdom over which various 
dynasties are supposed to have ruled in an unbroken line 
of succession from 2666 B.C. down to 1784 a.d., when 
Thamada, who ruled at the city of Myauku (or Myo- 
haung), was conquered and taken prisoner by Bodaw 
Paya, king of Ava. Tavoy, colonised from Arakan, 


was soon absorbed into the Peguan kingdom, though it 
long formed a bone of contention between the rulers of 
Pegu and Siam, now being held by one and again by the 
other. The central kingdoms of Prome and Toungoo 
appear to have been, respectively, merely a very early 
dynasty and a comparatively recent off-shoot from the 
kingdom of Burma, into which they were subsequently 
again merged. The Prome dynasty was established at 
Thare Kettara by Maha Thambawd, in 483 B.C., and 
terminated with the death of Thu Pinya in 95 a.d., 
shortly after which a new dynasty was founded at Pagdn, 
in 108 A.D., by Thamokdarit. Later on, it assumed 
independence from time to time, before it was finally 
absorbed into the kingdom of Burma. The Toungoo 
off-shoot, however, played a much more important part 
in the general history of the country. 

While Duttiya Min Kaung ruled over Burma he con- 
ferred independence on his tributary Min Kyi Nyo of 
Toungoo about 1480 a.d. The latter was succeeded in 
1530 by his son, Min Taya Shweti, better known as 
Tabin Shweti. Ten years later, by the time he was 
only twenty-six years of age, Tabin Shweti had made 
himself master of Pegu, and had been appointed king, 
according to the ancient ceremonies, in the capital. To 
celebrate this event he placed new Ti on the great na- 
tional pagodas at Pegu and Dagon (now Rangoon). 
Ousting the Shan usurpers from Ava he next had him- 
self solemnly consecrated there, in 1544, as "king of 
kings" or emperor of all Burma, and he appointed 
tributary kings for the government of Ava, Prome, 
Toungoo, and Martaban. In 1546 he invaded Arakan, 
but was obliged to discontinue operations owing to dis- 
turbances in his eastern territories. He was now master 
of all Burma, except Arakan, and would probably also 
have conquered and added to his dominions the whole of 
the Shan States and Northern Siam, as happened during 
the second half of the sixteenth century, had he not 
given way to debauchery rendering him incapable of 
ruling. In 1550, when only thirty-six years of age, this 
able, but cruel and unscrupulous monarch was murdered 
by a scion of the late royal race of Pegu. 

2 _y 


( In considering the history of Burma, even broadly 
and briefly without going into details, the two main 
factors most deserving of consideration are the Burmese 
kingdom in the upper portion of the Irrawaddy, and the 

Mon kingdom occupying the lower portions of the Irra- 
waddy and Sittang valleys, as well as the whole of the 
southern sea-coast. To prevent confusion, the rulers of 
these kingdoms will invariably be respectively referred 
to throughout this chapter as the kings of Burma and of 
Pegu, while their subjects will be called by their correct 
distinctive names, Burmese and Mon. 

( The Burmese kingdom seems to have been originally 
established by a dynasty which came from India) That 
portion of the Royal Chronicle which may be classed as 
purely mythical gives a list of thirty-three kings who 
reigned at Tagaung (Hastinapura), and of seventeen 
more who had their capital at Mauroya and Tagaung. 
The last king, Thado Damma Raja, was dethroned at 
the time of an invasion from the east. 

The legendary portion of the Burmese Chronicles 
may be regarded as commencing about 483 b.c, when 
Maha Thambawa established a new dynasty at Prome 
(Thare Kettara). Here twenty-seven kings reigned till 
the close of the first century a.d., when, after the death 
of King Thu Pinyd, his nephew, Thamokdarit, removed 
the capital to Pagdn. Forty kings reigned at Pagan 
before what may be regarded as the actually historic 
epoch began with the accession of King Anawratazaw to 
the throne, about loio a.d. Even this period possesses, 
however, so little of interest for the general reader that 
the course of events in Burma may be lightly skimmed, 
only the essential facts being noted, till the last dynasty 
WAS founded in 1755 by Alaung Payd. 
f The Pagan dynasty came to an end in 1279 a.d., when 
King Kyawswa was deposed and afterwards killed by 
three Shan brothers. Previous to this, there had been a 
Mongol invasion, caused by the Emperor of China enforc- 
ing his claim to receive tribute and homage from Burma. 
The army consisted more probably of Shans and Shan- 
Chinese than of Chinese proper ; for men of Shan race 
had long been gradually overrunning the country and 



acquiring positions of great influence through royal 
favour. This was not the first time the Shans had 
spread over the country. Centuries before they had 
swarmed into Burma, and had even pushed northwards 
so far as to found the Shan or Ahom kmgdom of As- 


In 1298 A.D. a Shan dynasty was founded in Burma, 
which reigned for about seventy years with Mymzamg, 
Panyd. and Sagaing as the capitals. In 1364, however, a 
new Burmese dynasty was founded by 1 hado Mmbya, 
who dethroned the contemporaneous rulers at Panya and 
Sagaing, and established his capital at Ava. Said to be a 
descendant of the ancient kings of Tagaung, Thado Mm- 
bya was of Shan extraction on his mother's side; and 
all the seventeen kings of his dynasty, which held the 
reins of government till 1554, were mainly of Shan 
descent. On the last king of this line being conquered 
and deposed by Bayin Naung, of the Toungoo dynasty, 
King of Pegu, the kingdom of Burma was held as a 
tributary of the kingdom of Pegu. 

The ancient Mon Chronicles give a list of fifty-nine 
kings of Pegu, who reigned at Suvarna Bhiami or 
Thaton. The first of these, Thiha Raja, came from 
India, and died in 543 B.C., the year in which Gaudama 
attained Buddhahood ; and the last of the long line, 
Manuha, was conquered and carried off as a prisoner to 
Pagdn by Anawratazaw, in 1057 a.d. 

An off-shoot from this direct line had, however, long 
before this been sent to establish itself to the west of 
Thaton ; and this resulted in the foundation of the city of 
Pegu(Hanthawadi)in 573 a.d. Between then and 781 a.d. 
seventeen kings reigned here ; but after that there is a 
blank of about 500 years in the Pegu chronicles, during 
which the names of the rulers are not given. This may 
perhaps in part be explained by the religious strife 
existing between the Brahminists and the Buddhists, 
which extended over about 300 years ; for each monkish 
party would naturally tamper with the chronicles when- 
ever they gained the ascendancy for the time being. 

After the conquest of the kingdom of Pegu, including 
both Thaton and Hanthawadi, Pegu became subject to 

4 V 


Burma for about 230 years, until a Shan chief called 
VVareyu established a dynasty in 1287 a.d., with the 
seat of government at Muttama (Martaban). About 
sixty years later, however, the capital was transferred to 
the ancient city of Hanthawadi, which remained the 
stronghold of the dynasty till Takdrutbi was conquered 
and deposed by Tabin Shweti, King of Toungoo, in 
1540 A.D. 

The dynasty founded by Tabin Shweti, a king of 
Burmese race to whom reference has already been made, 
was but of short duration. It ended in 1599, when 
Nanda Bayin, the eldest son of Bayin Naung, was de- 
throned and put to death by his tributary, the King of 

From 1599, when the Nyaung Yan Min, a younger 
son of Bayin Naung, ascended the throne of the " king 
of kings," the Toungoo dynasty reigned at Ava, and at 
Pegu, holding sway throughout the whole of the present 
province, with the exception of Arakan. This was the 
first time the kingdoms of Burma and Pegu had ever been 
united under one sovereign. At the same time, the 
eastern frontiers of the Burmese empire had been pushed 
forward so as to include large tracts in Western China, 
all the Shan and Siamese-Shan States, and the greater 
portion of Siam. 

In 1740, however, the Mon, who had never relin- 
quished their aspirations for national independence, 
again revolted, and elected as King of Pegu a monk of 
Shan origin, who took the title of Budda Ketti. Six 
years later he abandoned the throne in favour of another 
Shan, who assumed the title of Binya Dala, a name 
famous in Mon history. Successful in arms against the 
King of Burma, he conquered Ava in 1751 and burned 
it to the ground, taking prisoner Maha Damma Raja 
Dibuti, who was sent to Pegu and there executed two 
years later, 

Binya Dala's sway over the re-united kingdoms of 
Pegu and Burma, this time under a ruler of Shan 
descent, was but of short duration. In 1757 he was 
conquered and taken prisoner by Alaung Payd, the 
founder of the last ruling dynasty in Burma, which was 



overthrown for ever in 1885. Binya Dala ultimately 
met the same fate as he had meted out to Maha 
Damma Raja, for he was publicly executed by Sinpyuym, 
son of Alaung Payd, in 1775. when the Burmese king 
held ^reat religious festival at the Shwe Dagon pagoda 

in Rangoon. n 1 u 4.1, 

Alaung Paya. or Alompra as he was called by the 
Encrlish. was perhaps the greatest of all the rulers of 
AvI Born in 1714 at Moksobo, "the hunter's cookmg 
place," he was first of all the subordinate of a village 
headman and then became headman of the town. 
Through his craft and his personal influence, aided no 
doubt among so superstitious a people by his auspicious 
name, Maung Aung Zeya, or " conquering victory," he 
raised a petty local revolt against the Mon power, then 
paramount in Burma. This proving successful, large 
numbers flocked to his rebel band, and he was at last 
able to score important victories against the forces of the 
King of Pegu. 

In 1754 Ava fell before him, and he carried the war 
southwards to the delta, occupying Bassein, at that time 
the chief seaport of the country. It was then, in 1755, 
that he proclaimed himself King of Burma and Pegu, 
assuming the pretentious title of Alaung Payd. "the 
incarnation of a Buddha," and conferring royal titles 
upon his two eldest sons. He established his capital at 
Moksobo, now called Shwebo. 

He died in 1760, at the early age of forty-six years. 
During the short space of seven years he not only freed 
his country from the yoke of the Mon, whom he 
degraded to be the Talaing or "down-trodden" race, 
and raised himself to the throne, but he also extended 
the boundaries of his kingdom from Manipur in the 
north-west to Siam in the south and east. And while 
thus engaged in successful warlike operations, he like- 
wise did much for the improvement of internal ad- 
ministration throughout his dominions. He prohibited 
gambling and the sale of intoxicating drink, and he 
purified the judicial system by enforcing the trial of cases 
in public and the registration of every judicial order 
that was passed. It was a misfortune for Burma that 



the sway of so competent a ruler only lasted between 
five and six years, — for he died in i 760, while laying 
siege to Ayodya, then the capital of Siam. 

In the following genealogical tree of this dynasty it 
will be seen how the succession varied by the national 
custom of nominating the heir-apparent and successor, in 
place of following any distinct rule like that of primo- 
geniture : — 

(1) Alaung Paya (17 55-1 760). 

(2) Naungdawgyi (3) Sinpyuyin (^) Bodaw Paya 
(1760-1763) (1763-1776) (1781-1819) 

I I 1 

{^) Maung Maung (■*) Singu Min £m She Min or 

(reigned only 7 (1776-1781) " Heir Apparent" 

days in 1781) (died during his 

father's reign) 

(') Bagyidaw Paya 

(^) King Tharrawaddi 
(Shwebo Min) 
(1838— 1846) 

(^) Pagan Min 

(1") Mindon Min 

(11) King Thibaw 

only a younger son 


From shortly after the date of the foundation of 
Alaung Payd's dynasty the history of Burma becomes 
gradually more closely interwoven than was previously 
the case with that of British India until, after partial 
dismemberments in 1826 and 1852, the kingdom of 
Ava was finally and completely absorbed into the British 
Indian Empire on ist January, 1886. 

Down to the close of Alaung Payas reign the 
influences of foreign countries on Burma, so far as 
territorial possessions were concerned, were confined 
to those emanating from the other Mongol kingdoms, 
China and Siam, lying further to the east, and nothing 


had yet been felt of the irresistible pressure which was 
finally to be exerted from the west. A Chinese or 
Shan- Chinese invasion from Yunnan had taken place m 
1659, but the invaders were repulsed in their attack on 
Ava, the capital. • Siam (Ay6dyd) had been conquered 
and made a tributary province of Bayin Naung in 1564, 
and Zimme was dealt with in the same manner in 1578, 
while the northern Shan States were also brought to the 
condition of subordinate tributaries. Siam soon after 
freed itself from the Burmese yoke, and even invaded 
Pegu. Alaung Paya s war of 1759 against Siam was 
caused by offended vanity, the King of Siam having 
refused to give him one of his daughters in marriage as 
a minor queen. 

Alaung Paya had six sons by his chief wife, and he 
expressed the wish that the succession to the throne 
should devolve upon each of these in turn. Looked 
upon as a sort of dynastic order, this unfortunate and 
rather unreasonable wish later on proved the cause of 
much bloodshed. 

The first king to succeed Alaung Payd was his eldest 
son, who took the title of Naungdawgyi. Transferring 
his capital to Sagaing, then the chief town in his 
dominions, his short reign of only three years was 
chiefly occupied in putting down an insurrection in Ava, 
and quelling minor disturbances in various parts of the 
large empire to which he had fallen heir. 

On being succeeded in 1763 by his brother, who 
assumed the grandiloquent regal name of Sinpyuyin 
or " Lord of the White Elephant," the capital was 
immediately removed from Sagaing to M6ks6bo. 
Dissatisfied with this change as soon as it had been 
effected, the King consulted his astrologers, who advised 
him to select Ava once more as the capital. Accord- 
ingly he re-transferred the seat of government to Ava. 

Naturally ambitious, Sinpyuyin invaded and annexed 
Manipur in 1764, reduced Zimme and the Shan States to 
obedience, and subsequently invaded Siam in 1765. 
Ayodyd, the capital, was taken, and was destroyed by 
fire early in 1767, when the victorious king found 
himself compelled to return to Ava to defend his own 



proper dominions against a threatened Chinese invasion. 
This incursion arose out of purely commercial causes. 

In the spring of 1765 a Chinese trader had been 
interfered with when approaching Bhamo, and was 
taken into custody and sent to Ava. Being there 
released, he found some of his goods were missing when 
he got to Bhamo. Similar friction having frequently 
been caused by misconduct of Burmese officials at 
various points along the eastern frontier, a Shan- Chinese 
incursion was made into the southern Shan States. 

This was soon easily quelled, but Sinpyuyin became 
uneasy about his relations with China when he heard, 
early in the following year, that a large army was being 
massed on the frontier near Momein. In 1 767 the Chinese 
troops invaded Burma and occupied Bhamo, while a 
southern column marched by the trade route through 
the northern Shan State of Theinni to threaten the 
capital. The Burmese, however, succeeded in routing 
and driving back again the northern column, and in 
forcing the southern also to retreat. The net result of 
the contest proved advantageous for Burma, as it 
definitely gained certain Shan States in the extreme 
north which really belonged to China, though they had 
from time to time been under Burmese suzerainty. 

Furious at one he considered an upstart and a petty 
barbarian daring to resist an army of the son of heaven, 
the Emperor of China again sent troops across the Shan 
hills towards the close of 1767. Defeating one of the 
Burmese columns in the Thibaw State, it pushed on 
towards the edge of the plateau overlooking the valley of 
the Irrawaddy, but was then defeated and forced to retreat 
from Burmese territory. The Chinese entrenchments or 
camping grounds ( Tarok Sakdn) then formed are still to 
be found dotted all along the line of march from Maymyo, 
through Thibaw and Lashio, eastwards. But from the 
size of even the largest of these entrenchments, it seems 
evident that only small bodies of troops could have been 
employed, and not the large army of 50,000 men whose 
inglorious defeat the Burmese Chronicle boastfully nar- 

Rumours of troops being massed in still larger numbers 


beyond the frontiers soon again troubled the King, and the 
earthquakes of 1 769. which rent asunder pagodas and 
threw down the golden Ti, or " umbrella " pinnacle of the 
great Shwe Dagon pagoda in Rangoon, were viewed 
as omens of direst import, presaging national disaster. 
Religious frenzy seized hold of the people and of their 
King. Vast treasures were lavished in repairing and 
beautifying the great pagodas throughout the land, and 
thousands of gold and silver images were enshrined in 
order to gain sufficient Kutho, or " religious merit," to 
avert disaster. 

Hardly had these great works of religious merit been 
accomplished before the storm broke from the north-east, 
in the early part of the autumn of 1769. Decimated by 
malarious fever, the Chinese were easily overpowered by 
the Burmese ; and before the close of the year peace was 
established by a convention signed at Bhamo. This was 
the last time war actually occurred between Burma and 
China. Shortly after this the Siamese revolted, and in 
1 77 1 a Burmese force was sent against them. It con- 
sisted mainly of Talaings, who mutinied, massacred their 
Burmese fellow-soldiers, and, retracing their steps, in- 
vested Rangoon, the new metropolis of the sea-board. 
This uprising was soon suppressed locally, but it was not 
till the beginning of 17 74 that the Burmese authority was 
completely re-established throughout Pegu. To celebrate 
this happy issue and the victories of Burmese arms in 
Manipur and Kachar, as well as to consolidate his power 
in Pegu, Sinpyuyin placed a new golden TV on the 
summit of the Shwe Dagon pagoda in 1774 ; and then, 
full of what he probably considered good deeds, he passed 
away in 1776, being succeeded by his son, the Singu 

When Singu Min ascended the throne, Burma was 
again embroiled in a Siamese war. After the complete 
destruction of Ayodya by fire, and the carrying off of the 
Siamese royal family as prisoners by Sinpyuyin's army 
in 1767, a man named Paya Tak, of Chinese descent, 
obtained a following, and inflicted heavy losses on the 
retreating Burmese. Assuming the title of king, he 
founded a new capital at Bangkok. It was not till 1774 



that Sinpyuyin found himself in a position to conduct 
fresh operations against Siam, and these had not been 
concluded when he died. Meanwhile, it was not going 
well in Siam with the Burmese arms. So the new king 
determined to put an end to the conflict, and ordered the 
withdrawal of his troops, both from Ay6dyd and from 
the Zimme and Upper Menam territories, where they 
could no longer stay with safety. 

Internal disturbances connected with the succession now 
began as a direct consequence of Alaung Payd's desire 
that each of the six sons of his chief queen should in 
their turn succeed to the throne, as it became vacant. 
The Singu Min was the son of Sinpyuyin. If Alaung 
Paya's death-bed wish were to be regarded as the law of 
succession, then the eldest surviving son was the rightful 
heir to the throne ; while, if otherwise, then a prince 
named Maung Maung, son of King Naungdawgyi, was 
by some held to have stronger claims to the throne than 
the Singu Min. These ideas were probably only formu- 
lated about a couple of years after the latter had obtained 
regal power, and even then only because he turned out 
a cruel, dissolute, and brutal monster. 

Suspicious of plots that began to be whispered in 1779, 
he had his two most favoured rivals killed. These were 
a younger brother of his own and his uncle, the fourth 
son of Alaung Payd ; and a short time after that, in a fit 
of jealousy, he drowned his favourite queen. Another 
uncle, Badun Min, the fifth son of Alaung Paya, an astute 
prince, who had so conducted himself as to be considered 
almost outside the pale of rivalry for the throne, escaped 
death, but was sent to Sagaing, and there kept under 
close supervision. 

In 1 78 1, however, a band of conspirators seized the 
palace while the King was absent from Ava on a royal 
progress, and proclaimed as king Maung Maung, who 
was then a lad of eighteen. Returning to the palace, the 
Singu Min was allowed to enter the inner precincts, where 
he was slain by the father of his murdered queen. At 
once seizing the opportunity, the Badiin Min cited Alaung 
Paya s dying wish, that his sons should succeed him ac- 
cording to their seniority, as the dynastic law of succes- 



sion, and Maung Maung, who only reigned a week, was 
at once put to death, the Badiin Min being now pro- 
claimed the rightful king. 

The new king from time to time adopted various 
titles, one of them being "lord of many white elephants," 
but he is best known to the English by the name of 
Bodaw Paya, although the Burmese themselves usually 
refer to him as Min Tayagyi, " the great lawgiver." 

To seat himself more securely on the throne, he put to 
death many of those who had secured the power for 
Maung Maung. About a year later an attempt was 
made to seize the palace for a scion of the old Burmese 
royal family ; but, this proving unsuccessful, the assailants 
were put to death. And to prevent conspiracies in future, 
a holocaust was made of all the inhabitants of the village 
of Paungha, where the plot was hatched. Men, even in- 
cluding monks, and women to tne number of over a hun- 
dred are said to have been burned alive on huge piles of 
wood, while their houses were razed to the ground, their 
fruit trees cut down, and their fields allowed to revert to 
jungle. A revolt about the same time occurred among 
the Talaing near Rangoon, which was also crushed with 
characteristic cruelty, more than 500 of the malcontents 
being put to the sword. 

Having thus crushed organised opposition to his king- 
ship, Bodaw Paya at once proceeded to wash away the 
blood-stains with which his life-account had become 
blotted and beflecked. He built a vast pagoda near 
Sagaing, and, following the advice of his astrologers, 
founded a new capital at Amdrapura, about six miles to 
the north-east of Ava, which was occupied in 1 yS2). That 
same year he caused a sort of Domesday Book to be 
compiled, giving the financial resources of each district 
throughout his kingdom, but the first use he made of this 
was to demand an extraordinary contribution from each 
town and village for the repairing and restoration of 
pagodas, and for other royal works of religious merit. 

On the foundation of the new capital, Bodaw Paya at 
the same time determined the succession to the throne in 
favour of his eldest son, whom he appointed Ezn Slid Min, 
or " heir apparent." On Pandali Thakin, the sixth son 



of Alaung Payd, quoting the dynastic wish which the 
King had enforced in dethroning Maung Maung, Bodaw 
Paya now pooh-poohed that as a silly idea. The younger 
brother then becoming troublesome, he was disposed of 
in what was considered the really orthodox and proper 
way of doing a royal prince to death : he was tied in a 
red velvet sack and thrown into the Irrawaddy river. 
/ Impelled partly by lust of territory, and partly by 
religious desire to possess the great sacred image of 
Arakan, Bodaw Payd waged war against that kingdom 
in 1 783, and annexed it in 1 784. Elated with his easy 
success in this enterprise, he conceived the ambitious 
design of conquering the whole of Further India. 

ijln pursuit of this object, Bodaw Paya began by in- 
va!ding Siam in 1785. Placing himself at the head of an 
army, he demanded tribute asserted to be due, and inti- 
mated his intention to avenge the defeats inflicted by 
Payd Tak on the Burmese arms. Junk Ceylon was taken, 
but was soon after regained by the Siamese ; and Bodaw 
Payd precipitately retreated to Rangoon. 

In the following year a fresh invasion of Siam was em- 
barked on, but the Burmese troops were cut to pieces 
hear the frontiers of Tavoy and Mergui. Bodaw Payd 
fled back to Martaban, and thence proceeded to his own 
capital, there to engage his attention with further works 
of religious merit, so that future undertakings might be 
more auspicious. 

During 1791 the Siamese established themselves at 
Tavoy, but the town was in 1792 regained by the Bur- 
mese, and peace between the two countries was declared 
in 1793. But many of the Shan chiefs had meanwhile 
been incited to throw off their allegiance to Burma, and 
to become tributaries of Siam ; and these tributaries were 
retained by the Siamese. 

Foiled in his aspirations as to the conquest of Siam, 
Bodaw Payd resigned all thoughts of invading and over- 
running China. But he still devoted attention to the 
extension of his frontiers towards the north and west. 
Dissensions, intrigues, and difficulties about the succession 
gave him the opportunities he desired both in Manipur 
and in Assam. After the death of Alaung Paya, Manipur, 



with British assistance from Bengal, had been enabled to 
free itself again from the Burmese yoke, but in 1813 
Bodaw Payd was appealed to for the purpose of settling 
a disputed succession. Citing the occupant of the throne 
before him, in order to settle the dispute, the Raja 
refused to appear ; so Burmese troops overran Manipur 
in 1 8 1 3, the prince who had sought the intervention of 
Bodaw Payd was placed on the throne, and the Kubo 
valley was annexed to Burma. 

Similarly, in Assam, a dispute about the succession to 
the throne led to one candidate beseeching the interven- 
tion of the King of Burma, and troops were sent there 
in 181 6. But before anything definite had resulted 
from this ready interference in the internal affairs of 
Assam, Bodaw Payd died in 18 19. Cruel and ferocious, 
he drew fearful bills of mortality on the Burmese nation. 
Though he was almost constantly engaged in warfare, yet 
the tale of men killed in cold blood by his inhuman orders 
was even greater than the total of those that fell in the 
field. Conscious of his blood-guiltiness, he tried to wipe 
out the debit balance standing to his life-account, and 
to earn a surplus of religious merit by lavish expenditure 
of money, labour, and life — all wrung from his people 
without consideration, payment, or return of any sort^ — on 
pagodas, irrigation tanks, and sacred shrines. Bodaw 
Payd's impulse towards creating works of religious merit 
gradually became a passion, and finally developed into a 
mania. As such, it was probably a premonitory symp- 
tom of the more pronounced insanity with which his 
grandsons, who succeeded him on the throne, were subse- 
quently afflicted. But the crowning glory of his reign 
was, in his own estimation, the possession of a perfect 
white male elephant, caught in the Pegu forests, which 
was received at Court with more than regal honours, and 
which was greatly venerated during the fifty years it 
lived at the capital. 

Bodaw Payd was succeeded by his grandson, Sagaing 
Min, who had been appointed heir-apparent on his 
father's death in 1809, and who now took the title of 

Although his accession to the throne was unopposed, 



he soon made himself a terror by executing two of his 
uncles, the Princes of Prome and Toungoo, together with 
a large number of public officers whom he suspected of 
conspiring against him. Early in Bagyidaw's reign an 
evil omen made itself seen, for a vulture one day alighted 
on the spire of the palace. Soon after this, too, the spire 
itself, along with other portions of the palace buildings, 
the court of justice, and a large part of the city were de- 
stroyed by fire. So it was resolved to re-establish Ava 
as the capital. Preparations were at once begun, though 
it was not till 1823 that the move was ultimately made. 

In matters of foreign policy, Bagyidaw followed in 
the footsteps of his predecessor. Marjit, Raja of Mani- 
pur, who had been placed on the throne by Bodaw Payd 
in 18 13, was summoned to do homage to his new suzerain 
along with the other tributary princes in 18 19, but merely 
made excuses in place of putting in his appearance. 
This, coupled with offences against the Burmese 
sumptuary laws as to the number of roofs on the spire 
above his palace,^ and the amount of gilding in it, was 
r. made an excuse for despatching troops against him. 
/ These occupied the capital, and the Burmese garrison 
was retained at Manipur during 1820. 
I In Assam, too, Chandra Kanta, who was seated on the 
throne by the troops sent by Bodaw Payd, soon showed 
a desire to be free from Burmese control and interfer- 
ence. Additional troops were therefore sent under a 
commander named Maung Yit, who, through his suc- 
cesses in Manipur and Assam, gained the title of *' Maha 
Bandiila," after a mighty warrior who did great deeds 
according to the Burmese legends. This general after- 
wards commanded the troops fighting against the British. 
The result of this Burmese invasion was that Chandra 
'f/Kanta was defeated and fled into British territory, and 
^ Assam was declared a Burmese province in 1821. 

The extension of the frontiers to the north and west, 

^ The roofs of the spire above the king's chief throne, and of those 
above the four main gates of the royal capital, were nine in number ; 
and monasteries may also have the same number. But even the most 
powerful tributary princes were only allowed seven roofs on the palace 
spire surmounting their throne. 



beyond the mountain ranges forming the western water- 
shed of the Irrawaddy valley, proved a source of friction 
with British India. The situations which in this manner 
arose from time to time were the preponderating causes 
of both the first and the second Burmese wars. And, as 
neither of these very severe lessons could teach the Bur- 
mese Court that the British Empire in India was of a 
more solid and resisting nature than any of the countries 
mentioned in the Royal Chronicles, similar causes in 
course of time led directly to the total extinction of the 
Burmese monarchy and of national independence. > 

The earliest contact of Burma with western nations was 
extremely limited, and was purely of a commercial 
character. Brief reference to the details of this is there- 
fore more appropriately made in the beginning of the 
chapter on "Trade and Commerce" (chap. XIV.). 

/ The annexation of Arakan by Bodaw Paya in 1 784 
had already brought Burma into collision with the British 
in Chittagong. The British territory was utilised as a 
sanctuary by some thousands of Arakanese refugees, who 
made raids from time to time and harassed the Burmese 
garrison. In place of representing that, as would only 
have been just, the British authorities should take 
measures to put a stop to these incursions, the Burmese 
demanded that the raiders should be given up to them. 
This being refused, they followed the outlaws into British 
territory. The friction thus caused led to an Envoy, 
Captain Symes,of H.M, 76th Regiment, being sent to Ran- 
goon in 1795. He was treated with great indignity, but 
received what seemed to be a treaty. In accordance with 
this, Captain Hiram Cox was sent in the following year 
as Resident at Amarapura. Received only once in 
audience by the King, he was afterwards treated with 
great insult, and finally withdrew during 1 798. Difficul- 
ties soon again arose on the Arakan frontier, and the 
Envoy of 1795, now Lieut.-Col. Symes, was once more 
sent to negotiate a treaty. This time he was treated 
even more insultingly than before, being made to halt 
and reside for forty days on an "accursed" island where 
criminals were executed, and cremations and burials were 
carried out. After waiting for nearly eighteen months 



he returned to India, without having attained the desired 
objects of his mission. Another mission, sent in 1809, 
under Captain Canning, also returned in 18 10 without 
having effected its object.S^ 

Troubles again occurring on the Chittagong frontier, 
Captain Canning was once more sent on a mission to 
Rangoon in 181 1, but had to return in 181 2 with as un- 
satisfactory a result as before. In 1813 a Burmese Envoy 
was sent to Calcutta to demand the extradition of the 
Arakanese fugitives in Chittagong, which was refused. 

During the next few years matters gradually drifted 
from bad to worse, and the Burmese began to intrigue 
with the Mahrattas and the Court of Lahore, intending 
to enter the confederacy against the British then being 
arranged by the Peishwa — a plan which was frustrated 
by the victory at Kirki and the routing of the Pindari 
/On the death of Bodaw Paya, in 18 19, affairs had fallen 
ihto a chronic state of trouble all along the frontiers of 
Arakan, Manipur, and Assam ; and they were soon 
forced by the Burmese into a more acute stage. On the 
borders of Chittagong aggressions were almost uninter- 
rupted. From Manipur and from Assam a Burmese 
force marched in two columns into Kachar, which had 
been taken under British protection to check any advance 
of the Burmese towards Sylhet. The column from 
Assam was driven back from the Surma river ; while 
that from Manipur also retired, but not until after it had 
stubbornly and successfully beaten off a British attack on 
a strong stockade on the bank of the Bardk river. 

While these skirmishes were going on further north, a 
casus belli had evolved itself on the Naf river, the bound- 
ary between Arakan and Chittagong. On 23rd Septem- 
ber, 1823, an armed party of Burmese attacked a British 
guard on Shapuri, an island close to the Chittagong side, 
killing and wounding six of the guard. During Novem- 
ber the island was re-occupied by a detachment of British 
sepoys ; but Bagyidaw was bent on war. Confident of 
victory, he sent Maha Bandiila, in January, 1824, with 
6,000 men, to assume command of the troops in 
Arakan, and to march on Chittagong. \ 

17 / c 


On 5th March, 1824, war was formally declared by the 
British against Burma. Recognising that any attempt 
to reach the Burmese capital through one or other of the 
frontier districts would be attended with enormous diffi- 
culties, the plan of attack on Ava was made by sea and 
up the Irrawaddy river. Troops were massed at Cal- 
cutta and Madras to the number of about 11,500 men, 
and the chief command was entrusted to General Sir 
Archibald Campbell, K.C.B. But other troops operated 
also in Assam under Brigadier- General McMorine, and 
in Kachar under Brigadier-General Shuldham. 

On nth May Rangoon was occupied without opposi- 
tion, and shordy after that two strong stockades, thrown 
up at Kemmendine, now a north-western suburb, were 
captured. Some petty successes had been gained by the 
Burmese at the Naf, but these could not be followed up, 
while the Burmese troops were also withdrawn from 
Assam and Kachar. 

The advance up the Irrawaddy was delayed through 
want of adequate transport, and as the rainy season set 
in the British troops suffered severely from sickness. 
Later on, finding it still impossible to operate in the Irra- 
waddy valley, expeditions were sent to Tavoy, Mergui, 
Martaban, and Pegu, all of which places were occupied 
by November. 

Maha Bandula had meanwhile been recalled from 
Arakan, and placed in chief command of the troops, said 
to number 60,000, opposing the advance of the Brit- 
ish on the capital. Occupying as his base Daniibyu 
a town on the right bank of the Irrawaddy, about sixty 
miles north-west of Rangoon, he crossed the river and 
marched on Rangoon. But, before the close of the year, 
the attacks of the Burmese had been repulsed with so 
much slaughter that they found themselves forced to 
retreat, the greater part of the force breaking up and 
dispersing itself. 

' Owing to the unforeseen difficulties about transport in 
the Irrawaddy valley, another British army, of about 
1 1,000 men, was assembled at Chittagong under General 
Morrison, and sent, partly by sea and partly by land, into 
Arakan. Little opposition was encountered in occupying 


the districts, but the climate proved deadly during the 
rains. As the Arakan Yoma, forming the western water- 
shed of the Irrawaddy, proved impracticable for the trans- 
port of heavy guns, the idea of attacking Ava from 
Arakan had to be abandoned. By the end of the dry 
season, in the spring of 1825, the Burmese had been 
driven from all the places they had previously occupied 
in Assam, Kachar, Manipur, and Arakan, while the 
British held the chief towns along the sea-coast, and were 
preparing to advance in strength up the Irrawaddy to 
Ava. Sickness had, however, sapped the strength of 
the troops to such an extent that only 1,300 Europeans 
and 2,500 native soldiers were fit for duty at the time of 
Bandula laying siege to Rangoon in December. 

Reinforcements having been received, Sir Archibald 
Campbell marched north. His force was divided into 
two columns, on^ of which proceeded by land and the 
other by the river.N The Burmese were found occupying 
a strongly fortified position at Danubyu. Siege being 
laid, an assault was fixed for 2nd April, when it was 
found that the fort had been evacuated during the pre- 
vious night. Maha Bandula had been killed on ist 
April by a portion of a shell, and with his death all re- 
sistance collapsed. Resuming the onward march, the 
British occupied Prome without opposition, and went 
into cantonment there for the rainy season. 

When news of Bandiilas death and the advance on 
Prome reached Ava, the King and his courtiers were 
filled with dismay ; yet the astrologers continued to pre- 
dict success. During the latter part of the rains, the 
Burmese proposed and obtained an armistice, but the 
terms of peace offered were not accepted. As soon as 
the rains came to an end the advance on Ava was re- 
sumed. Some opposition was encountered about ten 
miles to the north of Prome, and again at Maliin, about 
fifty miles further north, which was taken after renewed 
negotiations for the conclusion of hostilities had been 
again futile. \ 

On 3rd January, 1826, the terms of a treaty for peace 
being signed, fifteen days were allowed for its ratifica- 
tion ; but, as this did not arrive, the advance was con- 



tinned. Pagdn was taken on 8th February after some 
little fighting, and on the i6th the British encamped at 
Yandabii, only four marches from Ava. Intimation was 
then forthcoming that the treaty would be duly ratified, 
and it was signed without further discussion on the 24th. j 
Under its provisions Assam, Arakan, and all Tenas- 
serim lying east of the Salween river were ceded to the 
British/while the Burmese agreed to abstain from inter- 
ference of any sort in Manipur, Kachar and Jyntia. An 
indemnity of a crore of rupees, or about ^1,000,000, 
was paid towards the British military expenditure, which 
had exceeded five times that amount. Provision was 
also made for the arrangement of a commercial treaty, 
which was subsequently concluded in November, 1826, 
though no British Resident went to Ava till 1830, when 
Major Burney was sent there. Thus their first war with 
the British ended with a vast loss of territory and such a 
crushing blow to their national pride and prestige as 
the Burmese had never before received. 

Ba-gyi-daw soon grew subject to melancholy fits, which 
finally led to insanity. The palace then became the 
scene of continual intrigues, until at last, in February, 
1837, the Prince of Tharrawaddi, who presided over the 
State Council, somewhat in the manner of a Regent, 
deposed his brother and seized the throne for himself, 
assuming the name of King Tharrawaddi. The de- 
throned monarch was not made away with, but lived 
under restraint till 1845. 

Meanwhile the British Resident to the Burmese Court 
had to put up with many indignities. Finding that he 
was thwarted in every way, and could do no good by 
remaining, Major Burney withdrew in 1837, for King 
Tharrawaddi simply refused to receive him or to consider 
himself bound by the treaty made by his brother, the 
late king. But the Governor-General, Lord Auckland, 
disapproved of this step, and in 1838 sent Colonel Ben- 
son to Amarapura as Resident. Him, too, the King de- 
clined to receive; and after enduring many indignities 
(Colonel Benson also withdrew in 1839, leaving his sub- 
ordinate, Captain Macleod, in charge of affairs. Early 
in 1 840 Macleod was ordered to return, as the Govern- 



ment of India had now at length become convinced that 
diplomatic relations could only be opened and main- 
tained by armed force. 

Removing his capital to Amdrapura, King Tharra- 
waddi reigned for nine years. But, shortly after his 
usurpation of the throne, he also exhibited symptoms of 
insanity. Gradually becoming worse, he finally became 
subject to fits of ungovernable fury, during which he 
committed acts of inhuman cruelty. One of his amuse- 
ments at such times was to order any courtier near by 
to kneel down while he scored a chessboard on the poor 
fellow's back with a sword. More than once he was put 
under restraint by his sons, and he died in confinement 
in 1846, being most probably done to death secretly. 

I On Tharrawaddi's demise the throne was occupied 
by his eldest son, the Pagdn Min, who had already as- 
sumed charge of the government when it became neces- 
sary to place his father under restraint. The new king 
followed his father's example in ignoring the provisions 
of the treaty of 1826; and, feeling sure of not being 
interfered with from Amarapura, the Governors of Pegu 
recommenced the course of exactions from British traders 
which had so often called for the remonstrance of the 
Resident. ' After the withdrawal of the Governor- 
General's Agent in 1 840, things of course gradually went 
from bad to worse, until at last in 1851 matters came to 
a head through two more than usually outrageous cases 
of extortion. 

King Pagan was cursed with the heritage of his 
father's vicious and cruel disposition, but was not en- 
dowed with any of his better or redeeming qualities. 
Avaricious to a degree, the King contrived to enrich 
himself by the deaths of well-to-do subjects, of whom 
he massacred about two thousand within a couple of 
years, some being secretly murdered, and others even 
executed in public. 

Now Maung Ok, who was appointed Governor of 
Pegu in 1846, followed his royal master's example — 
" like master, like man " — as closely as he dared in 
Rangoon. But at last he went too far. In July, 1S51, 
he caused the master of a British barque, the Monarchy 



to be arrested on a false charge of murdering his pilot/ 
Liberated on security, fined, re-arrested, and again fined, 
his crew arrested, ill-used, and fined, and not allowed to 
clear the port till payment of other money had been 
extorted, the master, Mr. Sheppard, reported the matter 
to the British Commissioner in Tenasserim, and made a 
claim of ten thousand rupees (^i,ooo) against the Bur- 
mese Government. A month later Mr. Lewis, master 
of the barque Champion, was treated in a very similar 
manner. Proceeding to Calcutta, he laid his complaint 
before Government and made a claim of nine thousand 
two hundred rupees (^920) against the Burmese au- 

The amounts claimed by Messrs. Sheppard and Lewis 
being reduced to what were considered reasonable limits, 
Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, on 17th Novem- 
ber, 1 85 1, sent a letter to the King of Burma by H.M.S. 
Fox (Commodore Lambert), accompanied by three other 
ships, bringing to his notice the many complaints re- 
ceived concerning Maung Ok's conduct, desiring that 
compensation should be given in these two particular 
cases, and also that Maung Ok should be removed from 
the Governorship of Pegu, where he was causing friction 
and breaking the provisions of the commercial treaty of 

Maung Ok was superseded, but the new Governor 
sent to Rangoon was accompanied by a large army, while 
very large bodies of troops were also moved down to 
Bassein, the western seaport, and to Martaban on the 
east, almost opposite Moulmein. The new Governor at 
once proved himself just the same sort of man as his 
predecessor in his attitude towards the British subjects, 
who were permanendy or temporarily resident in Ran- 

, In January, 1852, Commander Fishbourne was sent 
ashore by the Commodore with a letter to the Governor 
requesting that honourable reception might be accorded 
to him as British Agent along with a guard of fifty men, 
as provided for under Article VII. of the Treaty of 
Yandabu. But he was grossly insulted, and not even 
allowed to present the letter he had brought. 

22 .^ 


{A blockade of the port was therefore declared, and 
some fighting took place : then Commodore Lambert 
returned to Calcutta in order to confer with Government 
as to the further course to be pursued. 

(Measures were at once taken to pour reinforcements 
into Arakan and Tenasserim. Before proceeding to ex- 
tremities, however, Lord Dalhousie, in February, gave 
the Burmese Court another chance of settling matters 
without recourse to arms, but in vain. ^ The tone of the 
letter was certainly most peremptory,' yet King Pagdn 
never for a moment believed that the British would 
really follow up even a letter like this with immediate 
declaration of war. Consequently no special prepara- 
tions were made for defence. The ultimatum was re- 
ceived at Amarapura on 15th March, and hostile opera- 
tions were to be commenced if full compliance with all 
demands were not agreed to by the ist April. Mean- 
while a force consisting of 8,100 troops had been de- 
spatched to Rangoon under the command of General 
Godwin, C.B., while Commodore Lambert commanded 
the naval contingent. 

No reply being vouchsafed to this letter, the first 
blow of the second Burmese war was struck by the 
British on 5th April, 1852, when Martaban was taken.- 
Rangoon town was occupied on the 1 2th, and the Shwe 
Dagon pagoda on the i6th, after heavy fighting, when 
the Burmese army retired northwards. Bassein was 
seized on the 17th May, and Pegu was taken on 3rd 
June after some sharp fighting around the Shwe-maw- 
daw pagoda. 

During the rainy season the approval of the Court of 
Directors and of the British Government was obtained 
to the annexation of the lower portion of the Irrawaddy 
valley as the only feasible measure of adequate redress 
and of security against recurrence of past friction, and it 
was further approved that the line of annexation should 
be drawn so as to include the town of Prome within the 
new British territory. Lord Dalhousie visited Rangoon 
in July and August, and discussed the whole situation 
with the civil, military, and naval authorities. The re- 
sult of this visit was that, in September, General Godwin 



advanced on Prome, which he occupied after but slight 
resistance on 9th October, while the Shwesandaw pa- 
goda and stockades were captured during the course of 
the following week. 

Thinking that the time had now come for terminating 
the war, Lord Dalhousie early in December appointed 
Captain (afterwards Sir Arthur) Phayre to the Commis- 
sionership of Pegu, and forwarded a letter to the King 
of Burma informing him that after what had occurred 
the province of Pegu should henceforth be a portion of 
the British territories in India. It also added that any 
Burmese troops still in Pegu or Martaban would be ex- 
pelled, and warned the King that if he attempted to 
interfere with the British possessions in Pegu hostilities 
would be continued and His Majesty's kingdom inevit- 
ably and utterly extinguished. On 20th December, 
1852, this proclamation was issued, the frontier from 
Arakan to the Salween being drawn along the parallel of 
i9j° north latitude. And thus the second Burmese war 
was brought to a close without any treaty being made. 

The pacification of Pegu and its reduction to order 
occupied about ten years of constant work. But the 
second half of this period included the years of the 
Indian Mutiny, when all available troops were required 
to quell that uprising and to re-establish order through- 
out Upper India. 

Even before this humiliating termination of the war 
was known at Amarapura, a rebellion had broken out 
there. ■ King Pagdn, conscious of being not only dis- 
reputable but also very unpopular, had of late been re- 
garding two half-brothers of his own with marked 
jealousy. One of these, who found himself the special 
object of suspicion, the Mindon Prince, at last felt his 
life to be unsafe; so on 17th December he fled, accom- 
panied by his brother, the Mindat Prince, to Moksobo, 
the dynastic stronghold. This, on the part of any prince 
of the house of Alaung Payd, was ever a sign of revolt 
and of aspiration to the throne. 

Within a few days the princes had a sufficient number 
of adherents to march on the capital. This was done, al- 
though the Mindon Prince remained behind in M6ks6bo, 



the very plausible reason given being that he, a most 
pious Buddhist, was averse to the shedding of blood. 
Even though there was but little real fighting, yet a 
considerable quantity of blood was spilled before the 
Pagdn Min was dethroned on .i8th February, 1853, 
when one of his half-brothers ascended the throne as the 
Mindon Minj ( With remarkable humanity in a Burmese 
king, Mindon permitted the dethroned monarch to reside 
in honourable confinement. There he held a small court 
of his own, while in other matters he was treated with 
much respect, until he at length died a natural death 
after outliving his successor on the throne. ]. 


Chapter II 



FROM 1853 TO 1880 

AMONG other terms ratified in the Yandabii treaty 
of 1826, with which the first Burmese war was con- 
cluded, a stipulation was made that at the Court of each 
Government an accredited Minister should be placed by 
the other State and requisite facility given for providing 
him with a suitable guard and residence. Subsidiary to 
this treaty a commercial agreement was also made in the 
same year ; but it soon became apparent that the Bur- 
mese Government had no real intention of carrying out 
such conventions in the spirit of civilised nations. After 
repeated failures the Government of India at last, in 
1840, abandoned the attempt to maintain any representa- 
tive at Amarapura. After the second Burmese war of 
1852, when the kingdom of Ava was shorn of all its 
coast-line and cut off from the sea so as to become a 
purely inland territory, a special mission was sent to 
Amdrapura, where it was suitably received. But any- 
thing like regular diplomatic representation of the 
Government of India, which had been suspended in 
1840, was not resumed till many years afterwards. 
// In 1862 Sir Arthur Phayre, the first Chief Commis- 
sioner of British Burma, negotiated a new commercial 
treaty with King Mindon at Mandalay, and left an Agent 
there to see that due observance was paid to the clauses 
relating to free navigation of the Irrawaddy and to cus- 
toms dues. Under this convention traders from British 
territory were to be allowed, without let or hindrance 
from the Burmese authorities, to travel in such manner 
as they pleased throughout the whole extent of the Irra- 



waddy river and to purchase whatever they required, 
while similar advantages were secured to Burmese 
traders along the lower portion of the Irrawaddy in 
British Burma. To promote trade the British abolished 
certain customs duties levied on the southern side 
of the frontier, but the Burmese indefinitely delayed 
performance of their part of the agreement. Royal 
monopolies acted very prejudicially for the develop- 
ment of trade, and altogether the working of the treaty 
was not successful, although considerable sacrifices had 
been made by the Government of India to foster 
trade and to ensure freedom from arbitrary interference. 
At the time of their abolition, in 1863, the British frontier 
duties yielded over ^60,000 a year, while foreign 
goods imported through Rangoon for consumption in 
Upper Burma were chargeable with a nominal duty of 
only one per cent, although upon such goods imported 
for use in British Burma a duty of five per cent, was 
levied (except as regarded spirits, upon which the duty 
amounted to about 100 per cent.). This concession alone 
amounted to about another ;^30,ooo annually. But 
a further privilege existed as regards rice, of which 
Upper Burma required large supplies. Its export up 
the Irrawaddy was allowed free of charge, whereas all 
exports by sea were chargeable with a duty of about five 
rupees a ton (or about ten shillings at that time). 

Matters had again become so unsatisfactory by 1867 
that the Government of India intimated to the Court of 
Ava their intention to restore the frontier duties unless 
negotiations were entered into for a new and more satis- 
factory treaty. A new commercial treaty was accord- 
ingly concluded by Colonel Fytche in 1867. Notwith- 
standing certain defects, this new convention, while 
confirming the agreement of 1862, pledged the Govern- 
ment of Ava to several valuable commercial arrange- 
ments, one of which was the restriction of the trade 
monopolies retained in the hands of the king. It like- 
wise conferred upon the British Resident recognised 
powers to watch over British interests, by securing for 
him certain civil jurisdiction over cases concerning British 
subjects in Avan territory; and it provided for a political 



ao-ent, subordinate to the Resident at Mandalay, being 
srationed at Bhamo, the town in the north through which 
the bulk of the trade with Yunnan was carried on. 

From 1867 to 1879 the Government of India were 
continuously represented by a Resident at Mandalay,'' 
and the political and commercial arrangements between 
the two countries were placed upon a basis of reciprocity 
which was accepted in theory, though evaded in practice, 
by the Court of Ava. But questions of various sorts 
arose from time to time, some of which were settled 
temporarily and provisionally, while others were allowed 
to drag on without any attempt at a settlement being 
made by the Upper Burmese authorities.; To neglect 
obligations whenever possible, and to temporise merely 
when brought to book, were of course the only tactics 
that could be expected of such a nation. Apart from the 
facts that the principal concessions secured by treaty for 
British traders were only temporary, for a period of ten 
years, and had never been carried out, while guarantees 
for their proper observance were altogether inadequate, 
the other three main causes of friction referred, firstly, to 
"the Shoe Question," or the want of a proper system of 
diplomatic intercourse ; secondly, to the proper treat- 
ment of British subjects in Upper Burmese territory ; 
and, thirdly, to certain territorial discussions. These 
four questions of importance varied in urgency, but, to- 
wards the close of King Mindon's reign, they had all 
assumed the status of pending cases which it was neces- 
sary to bring to some practical issue. The hope of 
solving them by means of friendly negotiation was futile. 
The attitude of the Government of India, reluctant to 
proceed to force, merely encouraged the Court of Ava 
to assume and maintain an attitude of indifference with 
regard to proposals and remonstrances made in a spirit 
of forbearance, and repeatedly renewed. 

As the commercial treaties of 1862 and 1867 were 
found to require revision, overtures were made with this 
view in 1877, ^^^ repeated in the following year: but 
they proved unsuccessful. King Mindon was then ap- 
proaching his end, and the Government of India hoped 
that his successor might feel inclined to inaugurate his 



reign by adopting a new and more conciliatory poVicyyj 
For about five years previous to Mindon's death, in 
1878, all overtures and remonstrances on the part of the 
Government of India were ignored and disregarded by 
the Court of Ava ; and it became perfectly clear that, 
unless they were urged in peremptory terms, and en- 
forced by other pressure if necessary, the mere arrange- 
ment of a new commercial agreement would of itself not 
improve the state of affairs then existing. 

The way in which King Mindon managed to evade 
the spirit of the treaties was ingenious, though un- 
scrupulous. Previous to the treaty of 1867, the Burmese 
Government would, from time to time, arbitrarily pro- 
scribe particular articles of commerce, and notify the 
trade in them throughout Upper Burma to be a royal 
monopoly. The effect of this was to debar private 
traders from purchasing any of these proscribed articles 
direct from the producer. The producer had to sell 
these classes of goods at fixed rates to the king's agents, 
who vended them at high profits to other trgiders. The 
treaty of 1867 stipulated for the royal monopolies being 
confined to teak-timber, earth-oil, and precious stones, 
while all other goods and merchandise were, throughout 
a period of ten years, to be subject to a duty of five per 
cent, ad valorem, leviable at the Burmese custom-houses. 
'The object of this was to confine the old system of 
monopolies to the three products specifically named, 
and it was expected that the large and steadily increasing 
general commerce between Lower and Upper Burma 
would only be interfered with by the Burmese Govern- 
ment in so far as was necessary for the levy of the 
stipulated customs duty. ; But the king was by far the 
largest produce-merchant in Upper Burma, and, until 
his requirements had been fully met, none of his sub- 
jects were able to transact business with other traders. 
Thus, while the royal monopolies were nominally reduced 
to timber, petroleum, rubies, and jade, so that traders 
were at liberty to buy and sell freely, and without re- 
striction, whatever they wanted, yet the fact remained 
that all purchases had practically to be made from the 
king or from the Pweza, his brokers or agents. By these 


means the spirit of the treaty was circumvented, and its 
main object frustrated, without the king being directly 
chargeable with actual violation or infraction of the 
verbal terms. 

Again, in the case of goods imported from Lower into 
Upper Burma, the European merchants in Rangoon re- 
presented to the Government of India that pressure was 
brought to bear upon independent dealers to induce them 
to sell goods preferentially to the royal brokers, from 
whom alone the king's subjects were allowed to buy. 
All of these unwarrantable proceedings tended to reduce 
the trade in staple products between Lower and Upper 
Burma to practical monopolies in the hands of the king, 
and of those who dealt with him on his own terms. The 
effect of this cramping system was to interfere with the 
action of private traders, both as to the remunerative sale 
of goods imported from Lower Burma and the purchase 
of articles for export from Upper Burma. 

The " Shoe Question " was an indignity of long stand- 
ing. The British Envoy or the Minister at Mandalay 
had always submitted, on the occasion of official visits 
to the palace, to the enforcement of a ceremonial re- 
quiring him to take off his shoes before entering the 
royal presence, and to sit upon the floor before the king. 
It is the custom in Burma that an inferior should sit 
before a superior in such manner that his feet should 
not be visible, for the feet are, in more than one sense, 
considered an inferior part of the body. Hence the 
respectful position amounts to kneeling down on the 
floor and sitting upon one's feet — a form of making 
obeisance called Sheko. When Sir Douglas Forsyth 
was sent upon a mission to Mandalay, in 1875, he was 
instructed to use his own discretion as to following past 
precedent in his interview with King Mindon, but not 
to let such mere questions of form militate against the 
success of his negotiations ; and he accordingly com- 
plied with the past usage by divesting himself of sword 
and shoes before entering the palace, and seating himself 
on the floor with his feet tucked in behind him, in the 
posture of a supplicant before the king. But, when his 
mission had been concluded. Sir Douglas Forsyth raised 



in his report the question of continuing to submit to a 
ceremonial so degrading to a British Envoy. A further 
opportunity of discussing this point was simultaneously 
obtained at the end of that year, when the King of Ava 
sent an Envoy to Calcutta to greet His Royal Highness 
the Prince of Wales, then making his tour in India. 
Intimation was given to the Envoy that as the Govern- 
ment of India had assumed direct relations with the 
Burmese Court, it was necessary that the British Resi- 
dent should be received in a manner suitable to his high 
rank, and should in this respect receive similar treatment 
to that accorded to the Envoy by the Viceroy. When 
the members of the mission from Ava obtained audience 
from the Viceroy a few days later, they wore head-cover- 
ing and shoes, and they were accommodated with chairs. 
The Envoy was then verbally informed by Lord North- 
brook that it was impossible the custom observed at the 
Court of Mandalay should continue any longer, and that 
it must cease, although the matter would not be pressed 
in a manner distasteful to the king. At the same time 
Colonel Duncan, then Resident at Mandalay, was in- 
structed not to take off his shoes or to sit on the floor 
when received in audience by the king ; but Mindon 
tacitly declined to comply with this request. The con- 
sequence was, that from then till the final withdrawal 
of the British representatives from Mandalay, in Octo- 
ber, 1879, no British Resident was ever again re- 
ceived in audience, business between the latter and 
the Court being conducted through the Burmese Min- 

This suspension of direct personal intercourse was 
directly inimical to British influence, for it often hap- 
pened that, under such an absolutely autocratic monarchy, 
the success of diplomatic representations ultimately de- 
pended entirely on the influence and arguments which 
the Resident could personally bring to bear on the king. 
Among the ministers were some who, besides being un- 
trustworthy as to general character, had their own 
special and peculiar interests to look after : hence the 
Resident could never rely upon matters being correctly 
represented to the king. Upon critical occasions he 



could not act promptly and energetically without having 
the right of royal audience. 

Whenever this '' Shoe Question " was broached by 
the Resident, the Ministers of the Court of Ava were 
markedly averse to discuss it, and it became very plain 
that the resolute determination existed not to yield to 
ordinary diplomatic pressure upon the point. That it 
was necessary to terminate this degrading ceremony, 
and to insist on more civilised treatment for their ac- 
credited Minister, was equally clear to the Government 
of India ; but it seems to have been a mistake to make 
the intimation that the taking off of shoes and making 
S/ie/(;(^ by the British Resident was not to be continued 
without the Government of India being prepared to in- 
sist both on a suitable form of reception being arranged, 
and on full privilege of access to the king being secured 
to their representative. It was a weak policy, because 
it led Government into a not altogether creditable 
impasse for the last three years of King Mindon's reign ; 
and, when Thibaw succeeded him, the opportunity was 
lost of insisting on an improved status of the diplomatic 
situation at Mandalay. 

The treatment of British subjects under Burmese 
jurisdiction, and the disparity between the laws and the 
official usages of Lower and Upper Burma, were also 
among the chief matters calling for consideration. In 
1878 a variety of cases occurred in which British subjects 
were barbarously treated and subjected to wanton in- 
dignities. Only two typical instances need be mentioned 
by way of illustration. In one of these, two dhobi or 
washermen, who had been assisting the Burmese police 
in catching some thieves and conveying them to the 
guard-house, were seized by some other police while re- 
turning home, and charged with being out after dark 
without a lantern. In place of merely being confined 
till the facts of the case could be ascertained, the two 
unfortunate washermen were thrown into the stocks, 
which were raised so high by pegs as to threaten dislo- 
cation of the ankles. While in this position a bribe of 
six rupees was demanded, and the two men had to give 
up their turbans as a pledge for the bribe in order to be 



relieved of further torture. Simultaneously with this, 
Captain Doyle, of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company's 
steamer Chindwin, unintentionally trespassed on the river 
bund at Mandalay by crossing it to avoid a muddy bit 
of road. H The path he took was a beaten track across 
the bund, and there was nothing to indicate that its 
use was prohibited. When challenged by the Burmese 
police he at once came down from the bund, but was 
seized, thrown into the stocks, and exhibited there to the 
public gaze for two hours, till relieved at the instance of 
Mr. Andreino, the Company's agent. 

These cases were reported to the Minister by the 
British Resident on 4th September, 1878. Presuming 
them to be the unauthorized acts of the lowest classes of 
officials, it was pointed out that prompt and sufficient 
punishment would be taken as a proof of the Burmese 
Government being actuated by friendly feelings for the 
British. A couple of months later, on 5th November, 
the underlings concerned in the dhobi case were con- 
demned to ten stripes and restitution of twice the sum 
extorted ; while In Doyle's case the captain of the town- 
gate, where the Indignity was perpetrated, was degraded 
from his post and imprisoned. 

Mandalay was at that time in a very bad state. During 
the month of September King Mindon lay dying. The 
palace was a hot-bed of intrigue, and the Ministers whose 
influence worked for good were thwarted and Interfered 
with by those who were bent on evil. On 21st Sep- 
tember the Thibaw Prince was declared heir-apparent to 
the Burmese throne, and on ist October, after many 
false rumours, authentic Intelligence was at last received 
of the King's death. His body lay in state for seven 
days, and then he was buried between the mausoleums 
of two of his queens near the great council chamber, 
outside of the main gate of the palace enclosure.^' 

The British Resident was authorized to Intimate to 
the Court of Ava that general recognition and support 
of King Thibaw by the Government of India would be 
proportionate to his adopting a more friendly policy 
towards them and their subjects, and that evidences of 
this would be expected In greater consideration for the 

33 D 


position and influence of the Resident and in according 
him free access to the King. One of the first evidences 
of the spirit which ruled in the palace occurred on the 
31st October, in connexion with the Irrawaddy Flotilla 
Company's steamer Yankintaung, under Captain Pater- 
son. Before leaving Mandalay the steamer was boarded, 
and certain passengers were demanded to be given up 
for the purpose of being taken away. As no written 
authority was produced, the Captain refused to allow 
his passengers to be abducted in this manner, and left 
his moorings. On arrival at Myingyan, about eighty 
miles down stream, the Company's agent received a 
note from the Governor, which appeared to be a 
telegram from Mandalay, directing the seizure of thirty 
of the passengers ; but a reply was given that the 
Governor's warrant or writf^n order was necessary 
before the Captain could be required to deliver over the 
men. During the night over a hundred armed men, 
under two officials, boarded the steamer and forcibly 
abducted the passengers in question. It must be 
remembered that this was a steamer carrying Her 
Majesty's mails and flying the British flag. 

But for the patience of the British Government and the 
various political events which were then peremptorily 
claiming their attention in other portions of the empire 
at this particular juncture, these acts of injustice and 
indignity must have ended in open rupture with the 
Court of Ava. As it was, the procedure adopted was 
to ask, through the Resident, for explanation and 
redress, which were never conceded without unnecessary 
delays deliberately made with the intention of showing 
that the King considered himself, and wished to exhibit 
himself in the eyes of his subjects, as strong enough 
to heap indignities and even inflict barbarous tortures 
on British subjects without fear of disastrous conse- 
quences to himself. The manifestation of this spirit 
of bravado had been increasing during the last years 
of Mindon's reign, but it culminated when he lay 
stricken with fatal illness and then passed away, leaving 
the kingdom to his successor and to the practical 
guidance of the ignorant, barbarous, and unscrupulous 



men whose influence was greatest in the Council of 
the State. 

Even in purely judicial matters great difficulty was 
experienced in obtaining any remedy for injustice to 
British subjects, for the careless indifference or inten- 
tional laches of the Mandalay officials led to interminable 
delays in the law courts and in the definite settlement of 
suits instituted. As there was little reason to hope for 
reforms in the judicial administration of Upper Burma 
the Government of India, though naturally unwilling to 
interfere with the Burmese jurisdiction, found themselves 
forced to face the question of securing adequate pro- 
tection for their subjects by insisting on the enforcement 
of extra-territorial rights for them and for the establish- 
ment of British Courts of Justice for the settlement of 
cases affecting British subjects. Such extra-territorial 
judicial rights and courts were no novelty in oriental 

The territorial questions in debate were also by no 
means unimportant. After the second Burmese war of 
1852, the King of Burma refused to cede any portion of 
the territory conquered by the British, arid all attempts 
to negotiate a treaty proved ineffectual.^ The matter 
was soon settled, however, by the Viceroy, Lord 
Dalhousie, defining as the northern boundary of the 
British province a line drawn along the parallel of 
latitude six miles north of the fort at Myede, from the 
crest of the Arakan hill range on the west to the 
Salween river on the east. As the coast territories 
of Arakan and Tenasserim had been ceded under 
the treaty of Yandabu in 1826, on the conclusion of 
the first Burmese war, this prompt and powerful 
action of Lord Dalhousie added all the coast of Pegu 
to the British possessions and completely shut off 
the kingdom of Ava from the coast-line. The loss of 
Rangoon, then little more than a mere fishing village 
on a swampy tidal bank where each ebb of the water 
laid bare long black stretches of oozy mud, was not 
so much felt by the King as that of the port of Bassein 
situated on the Ngawun river, the extreme western 
branch of the Irrawaddy delta, near Cape Negrais. 



During the whole of the twenty-five years of King 
Mindon's reign he never ceased cherishing the hope 
that he might one day get back this port as part of his 

In pursuance of the Viceroy's orders, a survey party, 
accompanied by a suitable military escort, proceeded to 
clear the boundary line and demarcate it with suitable 
pillars. The work was under the charge of Major 
Allan — whose name still exists in Allanmyo, the old 
frontier customs' station on the Irrawaddy. For the 
most part the line had to be carried through dense 
woodlands and thick jungles offering considerable 
material difficulties to rapid progress. From west of the 
Irrawaddy across the Pegu range of hills, and beyond 
the Sittang river, the work was duly performed ; but 
before the cleared line could reach its eastern limit on 
the Salween river, the survey officers had to suspend 
operations in Western Karenni, whose inhabitants 
claimed recognition of their independence on the 
ground that this had always been respected by the 
Kings of Burma. On the matter being referred to Lord 
Dalhousie, he agreed to respect their alleged independ- 
ence, subject to the proviso that, if any future attempt 
should be made by the Court of Ava to obtain 
possession of this tract, the British Government would 
interpose to defeat it. As Western Karenni was sur- 
rounded on the north by Upper Burmese territory, the 
officials in the latter habitually endeavoured to ferment 
trouble on our frontier by instigating the Karenni to 
annoyances. In 1873 King Mindon took a farther step 
in claiming suzerainty over Western Karenni on the 
ground that it had always paid tribute to him. Two 
years having been wasted in correspondence and repre- 
sentations about the matter. Lord Northbrook finally 
ordered military preparations for repelling, if necessary, 
further interference by the Upper Burmese in Western 
Karenni. This was the main cause of Sir Douglas 
Forsyth's special mission to Mandalay in 1S75, which 
resulted in an amicable agreement that Western 
Karenni was to be recognized and to remain a separate 
and independent State. The demarcation of the 



boundary between Western Karenni and Upper Burma 
was thereupon undertaken by the British authorities, the 
Court of Ava tacitly decHning when invited to co- 
operate in carrying it out. Intimation was at the same 
time given that the British Government reserved to 
themselves the right of prolonging their boundary 
eastwards to the Salween river in accordance with 
Lord Dalhousie's dictum of 1853, whenever this might 
seem desirable. This arrangement was in many ways 
unsatisfactory. Free from control, the Karenni country 
became a sort of sanctuary for lawless characters and a 
source of constant disturbance to the tranquillity of the 
British frontier. 

On the western boundary of Upper Burma another 
territorial difficulty sprang up, during the closing years of 
Mindon's reign, through the advancement and erection 
of a Burmese outpost on land which was known to 
be within the frontier of the Arakan Commissionership 
of Lower Burma. Requests for the removal of this 
outpost were practically ignored, beyond the casual 
expression of a doubt as to the validity of the Yandabu 
treaty of 1826, which the Burmese alleged to be now 
obsolete and out of date. While the Government of 
India could not afford to permit any doubt to exist as to 
the validity of this treaty, which formed the permanent 
deed of settlement regarding the cession of the territory 
in Arakan, this little frontier incident was obviously 
a matter for friendly agreement by laying down the 
boundary and demarcating it in a permanent manner. 
But this was just what the Burmese declined to do. 
They would neither comply with legitimate demands, 
nor adjust the disputed questions in a friendly manner. 
Obviously, the proper step to take under such circum- 
stances was to notify to the Court of Ava that, if the 
obnoxious outpost were not withdrawn within a reason- 
able time, it would be removed by the British Govern- 
ment ; but as this was in itself only a minor matter, 
it was merged in the general list of outstanding 
questions requiring settlement between the Governments 
of India and Upper Burma. 

Up to this time, and till some years later, the external 



relations of the Court of Ava with other nations than 
the British did not occasion much concern to the 
Government of India. A Treaty of Commerce between 
France and Upper Burma had been signed in Paris, on 
24th January, 1873, and its ratification was authorized 
by the French National Assembly ; but such ratification 
was not effected till April, 1884, when another Burmese 
embassy visited Paris to undertake fresh negotiations, 
which will be referred to later on. It need only be 
remarked here that, in order to arrange the question of the 
ratification with Ava, a M. de Rochechouart was sent to 
Mandalay. Instead of insisting upon the confirmation 
of the Convention already concluded at Paris, he took 
upon himself to sign another Treaty as a substitute for 
or a supplement to it. This new Treaty contained such 
objectionable clauses {mter alia, giving Upper Burma 
certain facilities for purchasing arms) that objections 
were raised by the British Cabinet and a promise was 
obtained from the French Government that this Treaty 
should not be ratified. 

As the interests affected by the relations between 
Upper Burma and India in 1878 were mainly com- 
mercial rather than political, the political position of the 
Court of Ava with reference to other foreign countries 
had not yet assumed the importance they were sub- 
sequently to acquire a few years later. What concerned 
the Government of India most were the unsatisfactory 
commercial relations, the treatment of British subjects, 
the want of satisfactory judicial arrangements, the 
settlement of pending territorial questions, and the status 
of the Resident at Mandalay. . 

On King Mindon's death it was felt that the time had 
come for collecting all these various questions and sub- 
mitting them to the Secretary of State for decision as to 
a settled policy in dealing with the existing state of 
affairs. It was plainly pointed out, in forwarding for 
approval the proposals of the Government of India, that 
there seemed absolutely no hope of any adequate settle- 
ment of the pending questions unless a marked improve- 
ment of the position of the British Resident was to 
be insisted on. His extremely unsatisfactory position 



was the primary obstacle to success in placing British 
relations with Upper Burma on a footing more con- 
sistent with the dignity of the Government of India, and 
more conducive to the protection and the development 
of the interests committed to their charge. But no steps 
could be taken by the Government of India to ensure 
proper treatment unless the British Cabinet were pre- 
pared to authorize armed force being used, if necessary, 
to secure compliance with the demands once it was de- 
cided to formulate and present them. 

/[When King Mindon died, in 1878, it was hoped that 
the very unsatisfactory condition of these relations 
might perhaps spontaneously become improved. It was 
known that the late King felt strong personal reluctance 
to sign or to recognize any Treaty recording the cession 
of any portion of his territories, and it was believed that 
this sentiment strengthened his dislike of anything in the 
shape of a treaty adjusting and regulating commercial 
and political relations. Moreover, the strong trading 
instincts which led him to extend and abuse the system 
of monopolies were also regarded as probably personal 
idiosyncrasies from which his successor might perhaps 
be free. But it soon became evident that no such 
spontaneous action was to be expected from King 
Thibaw, and that no overtures he might make to the 
Government of India for the improvement of existing 
relations could possibly be accepted as sincere ; while 
the massacres with which his reign was inaugurated, and 
his seat on the throne secured, rendered it impossible for 
the Government of India to take the first steps in 
making amicable overtures to the Court of Av^. What 
was insisted on at this juncture was the right, under the 
Treaty of Yandabii, to furnish the Resident with a 
suitable guard, which the disturbed condition of Upper 
Burma rendered absolutely necessary. This proposal 
was opposed by the King's Ministers, and they only 
yielded to strong and persistent pressure from the 
Government of India. 

In the kingdom of Ava succession to the throne did 
not necessarily go by primogeniture, but by the exercise 
of royal prerogative. It was the custom of the country 



that an Einshd Min, or heir apparent, a " prince in 
front of the house," was formally elected by the King, 
and was thereafter associated with him in the govern- 
ment. He became vice-president of the State Council, 
and was ex officio regent at Mandalay whenever the King 
might be absent The heir apparent, the King's brother, 
who had been elected early in his reign by Mindon, 
was killed in 1866, when two of Mindon's elder sons, 
displeased on that account, endeavoured to assassinate 
their father and uncle. King Mindon had in all 
about thirty sons ; but, as they grew up, he delayed till 
his last moments to carry out the duty of formally 
appointing his successor. In this he was actuated partly, 
no doubt, by fear of his own assassination, but also by 
the knowledge that the nomination of an heir apparent 
might probably lead to civil war. Each of his four 
principal sons aspired to the succession, and each of them 
had a political following. Of these the Nyaungyan 
Prince, of whose legitimacy there was no doubt, was the 
most popular, while he was the most esteemed and 
trusted by the King on account of his intellectual qualities 
and humane disposition. It was generally believed that 
Mindon had frequently indicated his intention of 
nominating this favourite son as his successor ; it is said 
that, in order to save the country from the horrors of 
civil war, a family compact had been signed by all the 
thirty royal princes mutually pledging themselves to 
respect the claims of him upon whom the King's choice 
might fall. 

While on his death-bed, in September, 1878, King 
Mindon sent for the Nyaungyan Prince for the purpose 
of conferring upon him the status of heir apparent ; but 
in the meanwhile the mother of the Thibaw Prince, the 
youngest of the four principal sons then in Mandalay, 
had made herself mistress of the palace. Apprehensive 
of treachery, the Nyaungyan Prince delayed compliance 
with the royal summons, and shortly afterwards, during 
the third week in September, an announcement was made 
that the Thibaw Prince had been elected heir apparent. 
The mother of this Prince was one of the Queens of 
pure royal blood, but there were supposed to be grave 



doubts respecting the paternity, and it was said that King 
Mindon had often expressed his determination not to 
select Thibaw to be his successor. Other accounts repre- 
sent him as the favourite of the King, and it is certain 
that a very gorgeous and beautiful miniature Kyaung, or 
monastery, had been specially built near the State Council 
Chamber for the purpose of the young Thibaw Prince 
therein performing his obligatory duties in withdrawing 
for a period from the world and living the life of a 
yellow- robed religious mendicant, as prescribed for every 
male Burmese. But Thibaw, then a lad of twenty years 
of age, had there performed more than the usual pre- 
scribed religious duties in this respect. He devoted him- 
self with exemplary zeal to the religious life, studied hard, 
and attained the high rank of a Patama Byan for dis- 
tinguished excellence in knowledge of Buddhist literature 
at a competitive examination held by royal order in 
Mandalay.^ Both from apparent habit of mind and from 
religious training it might therefore have been antici- 
pated that Thibaw's prospective reign would be in- 
augurated otherwise than by bloodthirsty and wholesale 
massacres. Meanwhile all news of the King's state of 
health was carefully kept secret, although rumours were 
already afloat that he was dead. The city of Mandalay 
was in a state of alarm and unrest, and the Nyaungyan 
Prince had, with his younger brother, the Nyaungok 
Prince, to seek refuge in the British Residency, alleging 
that their lives were in danger. On the ist October 
authentic intimation of the King's death was at last 
received by the Resident, and he was desired by the 
Minister to deliver up the two refugees. Declining to do 
this, he was then requested to have them deported to 
India, on account of the danger and disturbance to 
which the new King might otherwise be exposed from 
their presence in any part of Burma. This request was 
complied with, and, in maintaining these two Princes 
as pensioners in Calcutta, the Government of India 
substantially assisted in seating King Thibaw on his 

The Burmese Government were, however, appre- 
hensive of British interference in the matter of succes- 



sion, and moved troops southwards to the frontier of 
Lower Burma. Nor had the Government of India 
been idle in taking precautionary measures with regard 
to trouble on the frontier, or danger to the Resident at 
Mandalay. In view of the contingency of disputes as 
to the succession, and of lawlessness sure to become 
epidemic if a civil war broke out, the armament of the 
Indian Marine steamer /;'r^z£/^<^^ had been strengthened, 
and she lay at the military frontier station of Thayetmyo 
ready to proceed at once to Mandalay with troops to 
strengthen the guard at the Residency whenever a 
summons to this effect might come from the Resident. 

For some time these arrangements and the fear of 
further military preparations kept the palace authorities 
in restraint, but this was only a temporary lull before the 
storm of horrors soon to burst over Mandalay. After 
the flight of the two Princes to the British Residency, 
all the other Princes and the Princesses of the royal 
blood were confined within the palace. According to 
hereditary custom, Thibaw was married to a half-sister 
of his own, Supayalat, the daughter of one of Mindon's 
chief Queens. Ignorant, domineering, and lustful of 
power, she had great influence over him, and persuaded 
him that, to secure his position, it was necessary to make 
a holocaust of all those of the blood royal who were in 
confinement. Thibaw's mother urged the same policy. 
This horrible suggestion met with opposition from the 
majority of the Ministers. Two of these, the Yenan- 
gyaung Mingyi and the Magwe Mingy i, were deposed 
from office in order to weaken the opposition of the 
Ministry to their barbarous measure ; but the scheme had 
the support of the notorious Taingda Mingyi, a military 
chief lately promoted to high rank and a great favourite 
with the King, of the Taingda's son, the Governor of the 
South Gate, and of the Myowiui, or Governor of Manda- 
lay. Despite the more humane counsels of the Kinwun 
Mingyi, the Prime Minister, and a few others among the 
high officials, orders were given by the King for the 
massacre of the majority of his relatives. The adminis- 
tration was disorganized ; the chief executive power had 
for the time being passed from the constitutionally 



responsible Ministers into the hands of the violent and 
reckless party headed by the Taingda Mingy i. 

(On the night of the 15th February, 1879, the jail to 
the west of the main palace buildings was cleared for the 
reception of the political prisoners, and a large hole was 
dug in the jail precincts. The massacre was begun on 
that night under the superintendence of the personal fol- 
lowers of the King, and was continued on the following 
nights, the executioners being the worst among certain 
ruffians who had just been released from the jail in order 
to prepare it for being the scene of this crime. Excited 
with drink, they killed their victims with bludgeons, and 
strangled with their hands those who still had strength 
left to utter cries. The bodies of the women and children 
were thrown into the pit prepared in the jail, while 
on the following night eight cartloads of the corpses 
of the Princes were removed from the city by the 
western gate, and thrown into the Irrawaddy, according 
to custom. The massacre was continued during the 
nights of the i6th and the 17th; and on the 19th Mr. 
Shaw, the Resident, having meanwhile received con- 
firmation of the horrors perpetrated, intimated to the 
Ministers that if any further slaughter occurred he would 
haul down the British flag, and break off all relations 
with the Court.., Among those who were saved by this 
remonstrance Were the mother of the Nyaungyan and 
the Mingun Princes living under British protection in 
Calcutta, the Princess Salin Supya, a favourite daughter 
of the late King, and some children of the heir apparent 
who was killed in 1866. The number of those thus 
done to death is supposed to have amounted to about 
eighty, amongst whom were most of the near relatives 
of the popular Nyaungyan Prince. In defiance of any- 
thing like international usage, emissaries were sent from 
Mandalay to Calcutta to attempt the life of the latter ; 
but, on receiving intimation that they were under police 
. supervision, they returned without effecting their object, 
/f No conspiracy or other provocation was ever put for- 
V ward as a plea in justification of either the massacres at 
Mandalay or the attempted assassination in Calcutta. ) 
The remonstrances of the Resident as to the brutal 



massacres received the reply on the following day, pre- 
pared under direct instructions from the King, that it was 
his right as an independent sovereign to take such 
measures as seemed fit to prevent disturbance in his own 
country. The Resident then requested that, as a favour 
to the British Government, the lives of the remaining 
political prisoners, and especially of women and children, 
might be spared ; and he offered to take charge of, and 
to convey beyond reach of doing harm, any such from 
whom disturbance to the kingdom might be feared. 
This friendly offer was tacitly declined by the King and 
his advisers. Remonstrances had also been made by the 
Italian consul. 

The Chief Commissioner of British Burma, Mr. (after- 
wards Sir Charles) Aitchison, asked for a reinforcement 
of the troops in Burma, as a camp had been established 
outside Mandalay, and the garrison of the river forts had 
been increased, while the Resident telegraphed that the 
violent party in power, headed by the Taingda Mingyi, 
desired a rupture with the British Government, and 
wanted an excuse for overruling the moderate party of 
the Prime Minister. Levies were demanded from seven 
of the Shan chiefs, the officers of the army were com- 
pletely changed, and troops were being drilled and 
despatched to the frontier, after being armed with rifles 
from the palace and undergoing the most unusual experi- 
ence of receiving a month's pay in advance. With the 
King in an excitable condition from his own barbarities, 
and perhaps also from alarm at the possible consequences 
of his defiance of the Resident's remonstrances, some 
display of military strength on the British frontier was 
necessary to maintain peace within our own territory, 
and to support the Resident in his critical position. 
This measure secured its immediate objects, and put a 
stop to massacres for the time being. The military 
preparations brought home to the minds of the Court 
party that it had now become less a question of their 
attacking the British, than of the British proceeding 
against Mandalay. They could not disguise their un- 
easiness, and earnestly requested that the reinforcements 
might be withdrawn. Throughout both Lower and 



^ Upper Burma it was everywhere believed that the 
Government of India were contemplating some early and 
decisive change in their policy of reserve and precaution, i 

Simultaneously with these military preparations the' 
Government of India impressed on the Secretary of 
State the necessity of taking an early occasion for con- 
veying to King Thibaw a clear exposition of their views 
and expectations with regard to a revision of treaty 
arrangements, to the improvement of existing com- 
mercial and political relations, to the settlement of pending 
differences and grievances, and to a change in his policy 
towards the British. ! But the British Government 
decided, early in April, 1879, that the grievances which 
had been tolerated from Mindon had not yet been 
aggravated by King Thibaw, and that the time for such 
a decided intimation of policy as the Government of 
India desired would not be well chosen while the young 
King was surrounded by the worst of counsellors. Con- 
sequently no ultimatum was sent, and the Resident 
remained at his post in Mandalay. 

This tone of extreme forbearance on the part of the 
British Cabinet would seem astoundingly weak if the 
circumstances of the spring of 1879 were not borne in 
mind. The Afghan war had been entered on in 
November, 1878, and the Zulu war had commenced in 
January, 1879, with disaster to British troops at Isan- 
dhlwana on the 22nd of that month. On Major-General 
Knox Gore, then in military command of Burma, being 
asked if he were prepared to march on Mandalay with 
the troops under him, he replied to the effect that he 
would guarantee to take Mandalay with 500 men, but 
that he would require 5,000 more than the recent rein- 
forcements of the Burma garrison to enable him to 
pacify Upper Burma when once he had possessed him- 
self of the capital. This settled the matter. Troops 
could not possibly be spared ; they were wanted badly 
both in South Africa and in Afghanistan. Hence the 
British Government's rejection of the stronger policy 
advocated by the Government of India. 

Looking back now, with the knowledge of subsequent 
events, there is much reason for congratulation at the 



turn events took. The Zulu war continued till Cete- 
wayo's total defeat and capture in July, 1880; and the 
Afghan war was only brought to an end late in the same 
year, after a serious reverse had been sustained by the 
British arms at Maiwand in July, 1880. The experiences 
from 1886 to 1890 in Upper Burma make it extremely 
improbable that General Knox Gore's estimate of the 
strength required to pacify the country after the fall of 
the capital would have been sufficient ; and it would 
have been a matter of rather serious difficulty to provide 
large numbers of trained British troops for Burma, in 
addition to the special demands of South Africa and 
Afghanistan. Moreover, if war had then been waged 
against Upper Burma, it would only have been for the 
purpose of deposing Thibaw and placing the Nyaung- 
yan Prince on the throne in his stead ; whereas the 
ultimate annexation of Ava on ist January, 1886, 
completely settled all political and commercial grievances, 
and added to the British Empire in India vast territories 
rich in material wealth, and far richer still in future 

The respite thus given to Thibaw, and the tidings of 
reverse to the British troops in Zululand, stimulated him 
and his ignorant advisers to further acts of discourtesy 
and injustice to the British, despite a certain feeling of 
disquietude at the maintenance of military preparations 
along the British frontier. In the middle of April a 
fracas took place at Sinbyugyun on board the Irra- 
waddy Flotilla Company's steamer Shinsawbu, owing to 
the local coolies insisting on piling loads of Ngdpi, or fish 
pickled with salt, a favourite condiment having a vile 
smell, on the bedding and luggage of the passengers, and 
then belabouring these latter with bamboos and billets of 
firewood on their objecting to their personal effects being 
thus defiled. When the Commander tried to cause the 
combatants to separate by ordering the mooring-line to 
be cast off", the coolies on shore prevented his order being 
carried out ; and when this interference was circumvented 
by cutting the hawser on board the steamer, the irate 
coolies seized the Company's lascars, who were discharging 
salt from a flat near by which had been left by a previous 



steamer. This was apparently done under the direction 
of an official mounted on a pony. About the same time 
another of the Company's steamers had to cast off sud- 
denly from Myingyan, without completing the landing of 
her cargo, on account of the violence of the coolies. To- 
wards the end of May the Assistant- Resident at Manda- 
lay, Mr. Phayre, whilst returning from an early morning 
ride, was jeered at and reviled with insulting terms when 
passing a group of young Burmese, although he was 
attended by a small retinue bearing the usual large um- 
brella and fan forming the customary insignia of an 
official, and by two of the police guard furnished by the 
Burmese Government. Treatment of this sort had be- 
come not unusual, but it was often difficult to ascertain 
the offender; and in this case the Minister was asked to 
see that suitable punishment should be given to put a 
stop to such conduct. These were all very trifling and 
petty matters in themselves, but they distinctly showed 
the drift of popular opinion throughout the capital of the 
country as a reflection of the attitude of the Court and 
the feelings which were known to exist there. 

Barbarities at the same time were again inflicted on the 
remaining political prisoners within the palace. The 
mother and the sister of the Nyaungyan Prince were 
loaded with irons and placed in closer confinement within 
a cell bricked upon all sides with the exception of a hole 
just big enough to admit a man. Here they were im- 
prisoned along with three other ex-Queens at a time of 
the year when the thermometer usually registers about 
105° in the shade during the daytime. They existed on 
alms of money sent secretly from the Residency ; but the 
go-between becoming alarmed and fleeing to Rangoon, the 
prisoners became dependent on doles of food sent to them 
by one of the Queen-mothers. Orders were issued for 
their execution, but they were saved by the joint interces- 
sion of the mothers of the King and the Queen, prompted 
thereto by the Prime Minister, the Kinwun Mingyi. 
Some Princesses who endeavoured to escape by boat into 
Lower Burma were caught not far from the frontier, and 
were at once thrown into the river and drowned. 

Whilst matters were still in a state of extreme tension 


the British Resident at Mandalay, Mr. R. B. Shaw, died 
on the 15th June, 1879, and his duties were taken tem- 
porarily by Colonel Horace Browne, Commissioner of 
Peo-u, who was sent up to Mandalay on deputation. As 
it was feared that the formal appointment of a successor 
to Mr. Shaw would be misconstrued and taken as a sign 
that the British were content to let both commercial and 
political matters drift on as they had been doing, and 
might be misinterpreted into a condonation of the disre- 
o-ard shown to the remonstrances made regarding the 
massacres in Mandalay, the Government of India deter- 
mined not to fill the vacancy thus caused. It was con- 
sidered that Mr. St. Barbe, a junior civil servant then 
acting as political agent at Bhamo, would be quite com- 
petent to transact ordinary business with the Burmese 
officials upon the footing to which the intercourse between 
the Residency and the Ministers had now been reduced. 
On 29th August, Colonel Browne accordingly left Manda- 
lay, leaving Mr. St. Barbe as Chargi d'affaires, with Mr. 
Phayre as Assistant Resident. Out of regard for the 
safety of those he was leaving behind him. Colonel 
Browne refrained from saying or doing anything prior to 
leaving which might be likely to arouse hostility within 
the Court. No notice of his departure was taken by the 
Burmese authorities, although he had given them five 
days' informal and three days' formal notice of his in- 
tention to leave. 

On the 4th September, 1879, Sir Louis Cavagnari, the 
English Envoy to Cabul, was murdered ; and the 
Government of India naturally became apprehensive of 
the safety of their representatives in Upper Burma. 
Authority was therefore promptly given to the Chief 
Commissioner of Burma to withdraw the whole Mandalay 
agency and escort whenever he should consider this step 
advisable, or when any suitable opportunity occurred ; 
but it was pointed out that this should not be done in any 
manner liable to misinterpretation as hasty or unnecessary. 
Apart from considerations regarding the welfare of 
Messrs. St. Barbe and Phayre, the withdrawal of Brit- 
ish representatives from Mandalay was viewed by the 
Government of India with no reluctance; for relations 



with the Court of Ava had latterly been such as to leave 
little hope of advantage, and much risk of disadvantage, 
from maintaining the Residency at Mandalay. By a 
strange coincidence these last representatives of British 
diplomacy at Mandalay were unfortunately the first two 
civilians to lose their lives in the operations after the 
annexation in 1886— Mr. St. Barbe (March, 1886) while 
attacking dacoits in the Bassein district (Lower Burma), 
and Mr. Phayre (June, 1886) while operating against Bo 
Shwe in the Minhla jungles. 

Meanwhile rumours grew rife in Mandalay of con- 
spiracies in favour of the Nyaungyan Prince, who was 
reported to be on the point of coming to Upper Burma. 
Large numbers of men and women were arrested in con- 
nexion with these supposed plots, and some were put to 
death. The pay of troops was now in arrears, and it 
was feared that advantage of the discontent among the 
soldiery might be taken by the Taingda Mingy i to over- 
throw the Prime Minister's party, which alone restrained 
the King and his bloodthirsty crew from massacring the 
inhabitants of the Residency. On several occasions in 
1879 designs had been deliberately formed and prelimi- 
nary preparations made with this object ; and it was 
mainly due to the still existing authority of the Prime 
Minister that such designs had not actually been carried 
out. The Government of India therefore ordered the 
withdrawal of the officers, escort, and records from the 
Residency. „ Notice thereof was duly given to the Bur- 
mese Ministers and to all Europeans and British subjects 
residing in Mandalay or in Bhamo ; and the withdrawal 
was quietly effected on 7th October, 1879, without the 
occurrence of any untoward incident.'/ 

The first move of the Burmese Government after this 
was to despatch an Ambassador on 23rd October with a 
letter and presents to the Viceroy of India. On arrival 
at the British frontier station of Thayetmyo, the Embassy 
was detained to ascertain its objects and the rank and 
powers of the Ambassador. As the inquiries regarding 
these points proved unsatisfactory, the Envoy was in- 
formed that the Government of India were not disposed, 
under existing circumstances, to receive a mission of cere- 

49 E 


mony, with nothing more than mere formal assurances of 
friendship from the King of Ava. The Envoy was after- 
wards duly empowered to discuss preliminaries for a new 
Treaty, but the proposals were entirely inadequate. He 
had consequently to be informed that, unless more sub- 
stantial overtures could be expected, his remaining indefi- 
nitely at Thayetmyo was inconvenient and generally unde- 
sirable. After being hospitably entertained as a guest 
for more than six months at Thayetmyo without making 
any reasonable proposals for adjusting differences, he at 
length returned to Mandalay. But, before doing so, he 
sent to the Chief Commissioner of Burma a letter which 
was so improper both in tone and in matter that it was 
returned to him. 

The frontier districts of Thayetmyo and Toungoo, with 
their strong garrisons, remained quiet and tranquil ; but 
emissaries from Upper Burma began to sow the seeds of 
sedition among some of the Lower Burmese township 
officials, more particularly in the western districts of the 
Irrawaddy delta, from Danubyu to Bassein, which had 
always remained rather disaffected ever since their an- 
nexation in 1853. The workshops of Mandalay were 
busy with the manufacture of rifles and torpedoes, while 
further troops were raised and fortifications erected near 
Minhla. Within the palace massacres still continued 
from time to time with unabated cruelty. Five sisters 
of the Thongze Prince, the eldest of the Princes murdered 
on 15th February, 1879, were executed, nominally for 
being in correspondence with the Nyaungyan Prince in 
Calcutta, but really because they had incurred the 
jealousy of the chief Queen Supayalat. Supayagyi, her 
elder sister and nominal chief Queen, became involved 
in an attempt to poison Thibaw and Supayalat, which 
cost not only her own life but also the lives of two 
Punnas or Manipuri Brahmans, a sect much venerated 
as soothsayers, and of their three Burmese attendants. 
The palace had in fact become a pandemonium. 

On 13th November, 1879, a fracas and riotous as- 
sault took place on board the Irrawaddy Flotilla Com- 
pany's stGSimQr S/iwe7nyo at Myingyan. Similar in nature 
to those which had in April occurred here and at Sin- 



byugyun, it was, however, more serious in degree, and 
the Government of India demanded adequate redress 
and punishment of offenders on account of infringement 
of the protection provided for British subjects under the 
existing commercial Treaties of 1862 and 1867. FaiHng 
satisfaction within a reasonable time, they urged the de- 
nouncement of these Treaties ; but, before taking such a 
step, they desired to know the decision of the British 
Government as to the future measures which might be 
adopted. With their hands full in South Africa and 
Afghanistan, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the 
British Cabinet should temporize ; hence they questioned 
the expediency of denouncing the treaties, and requested 
first of all to be informed how the Burmese Government 
replied to the demand for redress. After an interval of 
over three months the reply came from Mandalay in the 
form of a curt intimation that the case had been decided 
by the Governor of Myingyan to the satisfaction of 
both parties, and that under such circumstances it was 
not the custom to try petty cases afresh. The main 
points at issue were absolutely ignored. But Mr. Glad- 
stone's Cabinet had taken office on 28th April, 1880; 
and their policy was peace at any price. The Govern- 
ment of India could not push matters without the consent 
and approval of the British Government. They did what 
they could in a despatch dated ist June, 1880, which 
contained the following very emphatic statement of their 
position, and of the policy they urged : 

" All further proceedings upon the Burmese Minister's letter are 
necessarily stayed until Her Majesty's Government shall have con- 
sidered it ; and, in submitting the papers for orders, we may observe 
that, unless the Government of India are eventually authorized to deal 
with the case as an infringement of treaty, it must, in our opinion, be 
silently dropped. But we consider that such a conclusion would be 
very prejudicial to the honour and interests of the British Government, 
and that the reasons upon which we determined that a demand must 
be made now prevail manifestly with redoubled strength on the side of 
prosecuting it to some distant issue, or at least to some understanding 
in regard to the future. . . . We still adhere to the view that the 
affair cannot be creditably passed over ; while we still desire to point 
out to Her Majesty's Government that a plain, reasonable, and advan- 
tageous course of action can be found in the procedure which . . . 
we had the honour to recommend to Her Majesty's Government. It 



may be that the original affair is not, of itself, sufficiently important to 
form the basis for a dissolution of our commercial engagements ; but 
we wish to represent, what in previous despatches has already been 
brought to the notice of Her Majesty's Government, that ever since the 
accession to the throne of the present King the attitude of his Govern- 
ment towards us has been one of open unfriendliness and of frequent 
disregard of treaty obligations. And since we have every reason to 
apprehend, from long experience of the conduct and character ot the 
Burmese Government, from the recent behaviour in particular ot the 
King and his Ministers, and from the fact of our having no representa- 
tive at Mandalay for the protection of British subjects, that the Bur- 
mese Government cannot safely be encouraged either in discourtesy to 
our Government or in disregard to their engagements, we are most re- 
luctant to leave this reply without some substantial rejoinder. 

"We desire, therefore, permission from Her Majesty's Government 
to inform the Mandalay Court that the answer given to our demand is 
considered unsatisfactory, both in tone and substance ; that the case is 
regarded as affecting our treaty relations; and that, having regard to the 
whole state of our present relations with the King, we consider that the 
honour and interests of the British Government require us to withdraw 
altogether from our existing engagements with Upper Burma. We pro- 
pose, however, ... to allow the Burmese Government an oppor- 
tunity of fully considering the consequences that will follow our demand 
for redress." 

While this despatch was being prepared in Simla, the 
British mail steamer Yunnan was, early on 26th May, 
forcibly seized and detained by the Governor of Sale- 
myo, the starting-gear being unshipped and an armed 
guard of twenty men placed on board the ship. On the 
evening of the following day the starting-gear was re- 
turned and the guard withdrawn. Demands were made, 
in the least exacting manner possible, for an explanation 
of the affair ; but the reply from the Court of Ava was so 
evasive and unsatisfactory as to preclude any prospect of 
advantage from further correspondence on the subject. 
It was not until after receiving further information that 
the Secretary of State (Lord Hartington) in September 
intimated to the Viceroy (Lord Lytton) the reluctant ap- 
proval of the British Government in the words that they 
were '' not prepared to dissent fro7n tite course^' which 
had been adopted by the Government of India. This 
cold consent, far from amounting to even lukewarm ap- 
proval, was accompanied with the intimation that the 
Secretary of State " was in the first instance disposed to 
doubt whether the absolute rejection of the Burmese over- 



tures, resultiiig in the return of the Embassy to its own 
country, was altogether jitdiciousr 

Using the outrage on the Ytmnan and the Burmese 
treatment of the demand for redress as a suitable oppor- 
tunity for once more urging their poHcy, the Government 
of India, on 9th November, 1880, again asked for the 
authority of Her Majesty's Government to denounce the 
commercial Treaties of 1862 and 1867; and in reply 
thereto the Secretary of State could only " express the 
7'egret of Her Majesty s Govern7nent that, after full de- 
liberation, they feel unable at present to accord their 
sanction to it. . . . They do not gather that trade has, 
as yet, been materially prejudiced by any action of the 
Burmese Government, or that any political question of 
urgency is pending at Mandalay. hi these circumstances 
Her Majesty s Govermnefit consider that the attitude of 
forbearance lately observed towards the King may be main- 
tained for the present, and that the Government of India 
should be slow to precipitate a crisis by measures of which 
neither the political nor commercial effect can be estimated 
with certainty^ This definitely settled the matter for 
the time being ; for it was clear that the reasonable re- 
quirements of the Government of India as to commercial 
protection for British subjects and suitable reception and 
treatment of a Resident at Mandalay could only be 
secured in the event of Britain being prepared to enforce 
these demands at the point of the bayonet. 

The Zulu war closed in the summer of 1880, and the 
Afghan war in the autumn of the same year ; but, before 
the year 1880 closed, Britain had again become em- 
broiled in warfare in South Africa through a rebellion of 
the Boers in the Transvaal, which had been annexed in 
April, 1877. The short campaign which followed was 
disastrous, the British arms sustaining three several de- 
feats before peace was concluded on 22nd March, 1881, 
on an armistice proposed by the Boers. It was a humili- 
ating instance of the impotence of Great Britain at the 
moment ; but the Boers of the Transvaal and Mr. Glad- 
stone's Cabinet saved King Thibaw, and maintained him 
on the throne from which he was five years later to fall 
with such a crash. 


chapter III 


THE incidents narrated in the latter portion of the 
previous chapter may be summarized in a few- 
words as an introduction to the trend of affairs gradually 
leading to the third Burmese wat. After the withdrawal 
of the British mission from Mandalay in October, 1879, 
the attitude of King Thibaw's Government grew more 
hostile. Unprovoked attacks were twice made upon 
British mail steamers on the Irrawaddy river, and de- 
mands for redress were replied to in so curt and dis- 
courteous a manner, that the Government of India 
recommended the renunciation of all treaty engagements 
with the Court of Ava. The British Cabinet, however, 
already embroiled in an inglorious war with the Boers of 
the Transvaal within a few months of the conclusion of 
the Zulu and the Afghan wars, were unable to accept the 
policy urged by the Government of India, and deprecated 
the precipitation of a crisis by means of which neither the 
political nor the commercial effect could be accurately 
gauged. Meanwhile the relations between the Govern- 
ments of India and Ava were at a deadlock. Upper 
Burma became completely disorganized, bands of armed 
robbers roaming about at will and raiding at times into 
British territory, and fresh atrocities occurring within the 
King's palace. 

In the spring of 1882 an Envoy from the Court of 
Ava, bearing proposals for a new treaty, was permitted 
to proceed to Simla. Notwithstanding the occurrences 
which had characterized the proceedings of an abortive 
mission that remained at the frontier of British Burma 



for over six months in 1880, without being able to make 
suitable proposals as a basis for negotiations, a most 
friendly reception was accorded to the Embassy by the 
Viceroy, Lord Ripon, while the utmost trouble and pains 
were taken to brine the neg^otiations to a successful and 
satisfactory issue. But the expectations thus raised of a 
renewal of friendly intercourse between the two Powers 
were frustrated by King Thibaw suddenly recalling his 

Commercial progress was retarded and trade inter- 
course interfered with by the King following the policy 
of his predecessor in the matter of creating monopolies. 
During the year 1881-82 the value of the international 
traffic fell off greatly from this cause, but it recovered 
again when the monopolies were restricted in compli- 
ance with representations made by the Government of 
India. In other matters also the attitude assumed by 
the Burmese Government continued to be unmistakably 
unfriendly, and even menacing. The hostility gradually 
became more marked, and it was stimulated by the in- 
trigues and machinations of foreign agents. 

This policy of hostility in May, 1883, led the Court of 
Ava to despatch a mission to Europe, ostensibly with the 
object of gathering information relating to industrial arts 
and sciences, but in reality for the purpose of seeking 
alliances with foreign powers and of arranging political 
and commercial agreements which could not but conflict 
very seriously with established British interests, and 
which could only lead to the encouragement of intoler- 
able intrigues on the part of the foreign agents in Man- 
dalay. So long as the kingdom of Ava occupied an 
isolated position, its overt unfriendliness could be borne 
with extreme forbearance by the Government of India ; 
but when once the external policy of the Burmese 
Government began to exhibit symptoms of desiring to 
prosecute designs which, if permitted with impunity, 
would result in the establishment of preponderating 
foreign influence at the Court of Ava and throughout the 
upper valley of the Irrawaddy, it became impossible for 
the British Cabinet any longer to view the situation with- 
out anxiety. 



While other European Powers held aloof and did not 
seek to mix themselves up with the affairs of Burma the 
absence of a British Minister in Mandalay, though mcon- 
venient, was not attended with any very material disad- 
vantao-e. But there were French agents, whose machma- 
tions and intrigues chiefly required to be guarded agamst. 
Already the stormy petrels of French diplomacy were m 
Mandalay inaugurating the policy of ''pinpricks" agamst 
Britain, which was in turn followed in Upper Burma, 
then on the Niger, and again at Fashoda. 

The Embassy thus deputed to Europe for about a year 
to visit the principal countries and cities on the Continent, 
remained there till the end of April, 1885, by which time 
it had concluded treaties with France, Germany, and 
Italy. The Ambassador was an Atwinwun, or Minister 
of the Secret Department of the Court, who knew no 
language other than Burmese; but the other members 
of the Embassy consisted of a Wtmdauk, or Assistant 
Minister, and a Sayddawgyi, or Clerk of the Great State 
Council, both of whom had been educated in Europe 
under the orders of King Mindon, and were conversant 
with English and French. They had also been among 
the members of the Embassy which visited Simla in 1882. 
It was further accompanied by a French gentleman named 
M. de Trevelec. 

It will be recollected (see p. 38 in previous chapter) 
that a treaty had been made by Burma with France on 
24th January, 1873, which had never been ratified, owing 
to the French Agent sent to Burma for this purpose 
taking upon himself the responsibility of entering into a 
fresh treaty, in 1874, of so objectionable a nature that pro- 
mises were given by France to the British Government 
that the latter would not be ratified. On the arrival of 
the Burmese Embassy at Paris, in 1883, they desired to 
renew negotiations regarding the unratified commercial 
Treaty of 1873, and gave out that they intended staying 
only about a month. Political subjects were not yet, so 
far as was known, under discussion, although excuses for 
broaching them lay close to hand. In April, 1883, the 

Myingun Prince — who, after rebelling in 1866, killing his 

uncle, the selected heir apparent to the throne, and 



nearlysucceeding in assassinating his father, King Mindon, 
had fled to Lower Burma, and had since then been a 
pensioner of the Government of India — escaped from 
Benares (in Lower Bengal), where he was hving under 
surveillance, and sought an asylum in the French settle- 
ment of Chandernagore. Here he remained for a couple of 
months, declining all the overtures made to induce him to 
return to British protection, and hoping to utilize French 
territory as a base for operations against the Government of 
Upper Burma. In the absence of the Nyaungyan Prince, 
who was still living under the protection of the British, 
he was convinced that if once he could effect a landing in 
Upper Burma his endeavours to overthrow Thibaw and 
seat himself on the throne would secure many adherents. 
In June, 1884, he contrived to elude the vigilance of the 
police ordered to secure him if he should leave the French 
settlement, and to make his way on a French steamer to 
Colombo. He was promptly returned in the same ship 
to Pondicherry, where he was detained under the super- 
vision of the Governor-General of the French Settle- 
ments in India. 

But the Burmese Embassy stayed on month after 
month in Paris, apparently disregardful of the study of 
the industrial arts and sciences forming the professed 
primary object of their mission. In the diplomatic con- 
versations held during the summer and autumn of 1883 
between Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador, and MM. 
Challemel Lacour and Jules Ferry, the French Ministers 
for Foreign Affairs, no opportunities were lost of impress- 
ing upon the French Government the objections enter- 
tained by the British Cabinet to the conclusion of any 
agreement with King Thibaw containing stipulations 
beyond those of a purely commercial nature ; and it was 
understood that the British authorities desired that facili- 
ties should not be given to the Burmese for the purchase 
of arms. It was also particularly pointed out that in 
consequence of its geographical position with regard to 
British India, and of its political relations therewith. 
Upper Burma occupied a peculiar position, giving the 
British Government a special interest in all that con- 
cerned the kingdom of Ava. To France the affairs of 


that country could only be of secondary interest, whereas 
to Britain they were of the utmost concern, and, indeed, 
of vital importance. 

^ As the year 1883 was nearing its close. Lord Lyons 
had again to make particular mention of the subject of 
the Burmese Mission in Paris. It was pointed out that 
they had presented no credentials to the President of the 
Republic, or that at any rate no intimation of their having 
had a formal audience had been notified in the Journal 
Officiel, and that they had not, as was customary, called 
upon the British Ambassador or the other members of 
the diplomatic body, although they were admittedly in 
direct communication with the Commercial Division of 
the French Foreign Office, and were believed to be 
negotiating a treaty of some kind. M. Jules Ferry 
replied that the Mission had submitted various proposals 
regarding commercial matters, but that no progress had 
been made, as the Envoy had apparently not sufficient 
powers to treat seriously, and that consequently, in the 
meantime, no arrangements at all with Burma would be 
concluded at Paris. 

This was, however, mere diplomatic fencing and 
equivocation. In April, 1884, the assurance was given 
by M. Ferry that any treaties or conventions resulting 
from the negotiations would be of an entirely commercial 
or consular character, and that no facilities would be 
given to the Burmese for obtaining arms. The Bur- 
mese Ambassador was particularly anxious to obtain a 
clause authorizing the free passage of arms into Upper 
Burma ; but the French Government were absolutely 
determined not to agree thereto, as they were by no 
means disposed to facilitate the introduction of arms into 
Tonquin. In May, 1884, M. Ferry was again informed 
that the British Government would naturally entertain 
the most serious objections to any special alliance or 
political understanding between Upper Burma and any 
other foreign Power. The notice of the Foreign 
Minister (Lord Granville) was at the same time brought 
to the fact that the Franco-Burmese Treaty of 1873, 
which it was now for the first time contemplated to brino- 
into operation, provided for a reciprocal appointment of 



diplomatic agents of the two Governments. Endeavours 
were consequently made to obtain from the French 
Government a definite promise that the functions of any- 
such agents who might be appointed would be only of a 
commercial and not in any sense of a political character. 
Such a promise would only have been in harmony with 
the friendly assurances previously given by M. Ferry. 

In the course of an interview in July, 1884, during 
which Lord Lyons handed to M. Ferry a paper //'^ me- 
moridy embodying the position taken up by the British 
Government, the French Foreign Minister observed 
that it was very difficult to draw any distinct line between 
commercial and political functions. He thought it likely 
a French Consul-General, or some agent of that kind, 
would be stationed in Mandalay ; but whatever might be 
his title, he must of course in practice have charge of 
French interests in general. Reference was also made to 
France and Burma becoming neighbours towards Ton- 
quin. On Lord Lyons pointing out that the kingdom of 
Ava could not be a neighbour to France in any sense at 
all resembling that in which it was a neighbour to British 
India, M. Ferry then asked if any special treaties between 
Britain and Upper Burma precluded the latter from 
entering into independent political relations with other 
Powers. The obvious reply was at once made that, as 
British interests preponderated so vastly in Upper Bur- 
ma, the British Cabinet relied on all friendly Powers 
abstaining from seeking any political alliance with Upper 
Burma. About a week after the note pro memorid had 
been handed in. Lord Lyons reminded M. Ferry of the 
assurances desired by the British Government, and was 
informed that the projected Treaty contained a stipulation 
that each party was free to accredit diplomatic and con- 
sular officers to the other. The present intention of the 
French Government was to station only a Consul at Man- 
dalay ; but the title given to such agent, would, after all, 
be a matter of litde consequence as, whatever title he 
bore, he would have to deal with general questions 
between the two countries; and it was impossible to draw 
an exact line between political and commercial functions. 
For example, there might be question of voisinage re- 



garding- territories on the left bank of the Mekong river, 
over which the King of Ava claimed suzerain rights 
without exercising practical authority. 

It was admitted by M. Ferry that the Burmese desired 
a political alliance with France and asked particularly for 
facilities for procuring arms, but he declared that the 
French Government had no intention of forming with 
Upper Burma any alliance whatever of a special char- 
acter ; and a distinct assurance was given to this effect. 

Trouble had meanwhile been brewing on the British 
boundary between Manipur and Upper Burma. In con- 
sequence of certain disturbances which had occurred on 
this frontier, and of doubts regarding jurisdiction which 
had arisen through the omission to demarcate precisely 
the frontier line between Manipur and Upper Burma as 
described in the Kubo Valley Agreement of 1834, the 
Government of India, early in 1881, determined to depute 
a Commission to mark out the frontier boundary. When 
informed of this intention and invited to depute represen- 
tatives to be present at the demarcation, the Court of Ava 
intimated their opinion that fresh demarcation of the 
boundary determined in 1834 was unnecessary. The 
reasons rendering necessary the precise demarcation of 
the frontier line were explained, and the Ava Government 
were again invited to co-operate. Failing this, they were 
asked to instruct the local officers to give reasonable assist- 
ance to the demarcating party, which would reach 
Sumjok, near the frontier, about 20th November, 1881. 
In October, the Ava Government reiterated their opinion 
that demarcation was unnecessary, and intimated that 
they would neither agree to nor abide by any demarca- 
tion which the British Government might persist in 
making. In November, the Foreign Minister of Ava 
was informed that the proposed demarcation would be 
carried out and that the British Government would ex- 
pect the boundary line thus laid down to be respected by 
the chiefs and the people on both sides, to which commu- 
nication he replied by intimating that he adhered to what 
he had already said in his letter of October. 

The demarcation of the actual frontier line was carried 
out by the British Commission under Colonel Johnstone, 



no representative af the Court of Ava being present. As 
it was ascertained that certain villages hitherto supposed 
to be in Burmese territory were actually on the Manipur 
side, the local Burmese authorities were requested to with- 
draw an armed post stationed at one of these villages. 
The work of the Commission was approved by the Gov- 
ernment of India and the British Government. 

In February, 1882, the Foreign Minister of Ava inti- 
mated to the Governor of India that the local Burmese 
authorities had been directed to destroy the boundary 
marks and to station Burmese officials on the spot for the 
protection of Burmese subjects. In reply hereto the 
Government of India expressed a hope that the intention 
of demolishing the boundary marks would not be carried 
out, as the consequences might be very serious; and the 
suggestion was made that the matter might be left for dis- 
cussion with the Envoy, then on the point of visiting 
Simla. While at Simla, the Burmese Ambassador was in 
August furnished with maps and records of the boundary, 
and was informed that the Government of India in- 
tended to maintain the boundary and to prevent inter- 
ference with the boundary marks or encroachment beyond 
the frontier line. 

During 1883 it was asserted by the Court of Ava that 
the Kongkal (Kaungkan) British outpost had been pushed 
into Burmese territory, and that men sent to examine the 
boundary line had not been permitted to reach the frontier. 
Both of these statements were incorrect. The Ava Gov- 
ernment were informed that there was no objection to an 
examination of the frontier line being made, provided the 
boundary was not crossed or disturbed ; and it was asked 
that, if such a party were to be sent, intimation thereof 
might be previously given. 

About a year after this, in May, 1884, another letter 
was received from the Foreign Minister of Ava expressing 
astonishment at the boundary line demarcated by Colonel 
Johnstone being referred to as binding between the two 
Governments. Objections were raised to it, and it was 
again threatened that the boundary marks and the Kong- 
kal outpost would be destroyed if the British Govern- 
ment omitted or delayed to comply with the request for 


their removal. The obvious reply to this threat was a 
solemn warning to the Ava Government to reconsider 
their decision ; otherwise, it any such demolition or en- 
croachment took place under their orders, the consequen- 
ces might be very serious. This was almost an exact 
repetition of the warning given to them early in 1882. 

It was not anticipated by the Government of India that 
the Burmese Government would act in defiance of this 
warning and attempt to carry their threats into execution ; 
but as a precautionary measure the Chief Commissioner of 
Assam was authorized to direct the Maharaja of Manipur 
to resist the destruction or removal of the boundary marks, 
and for this purpose a detachment of native infantry was 
to be sent to support him, if necessary. That was the 
last of this direct insult to the Government of India, whose 
prompt and decisive action was approved by the British 

During January, 1885, after the lapse of about six 
months since the last exchange of opinions, Lord Lyons 
had again to bring the subject of the negotiations of the 
Burmese Embassy into diplomatic conversation with M. 
Jules Ferry, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, and 
to ask what was the state of his relations with the so- 
called Burmese Ambassadors. On being vaguely in- 
formed that the negotiation " n avail pas encore aboutil' 
the British representative had again to urge the views ex- 
pressed in \ki^ pro meniorid of the previous July, when he 
was met by the statement that, as France was now also 
a neighbour of Upper Burma, it might be necessary to 
make treaty arrangements with regard to the frontier. 
The position thus taken up by France was most decidedly 
unfriendly ; and it was pointed out that, while the Indian 
Government had full means of bringing the Burmese 
to a sense of their obligations and their proper position, it 
would be very painful and very inconvenient that a question 
of resorting to those means should be raised by a treaty be- 
tween Burma and France. A few days later M.Jules Ferry 
informed Lord Lyons that the Treaty which had been for 
over eighteen months in negotiation at Paris, between the 
French Government and the Burmese Embassy had at 
length been signed on 15th January, 1885, but that this 



Treaty did not contain any political or military stipulations. 
It was merely, he said, one of the common treaties stipu- 
lating for rights of residence, intercourse, commerce, most- 
favoured-nation treatment, and so forth. It was added 
that a French Consul would now be sent to Mandalay, 
but that the question of obtaining consular jurisdiction 
over Frenchmen in Ava was still unsettled. 

The duplicity and the covert hostility of France were, 
however, afterwards apparent in a letter, also dated 15th 
January, 1885, which came from Mandalay into the hands 
of the Chief Commissioner of British Burma towards the 
end of July, 1885. It was from the French Prime Min- 
ister to the Burmese Minister for Foreign Affairs and con- 
tained the following passage :^ " With respect to transport 
through the province of Tonquin to Burma, of arms of 
various kinds, ammunition and military stores generally, 
amicable arrans^ements will be come to with the Burmese 
Government for the passage of the same when peace and 
order prevail in Tonquin, and the officers stationed there 
are satisfied that it is proper, and that there is no danger y 
This episode cannot be explained away ; it showed de- 
liberate perfidy, and entire disregard of national honour 
and good faith by France towards Great Britain. 

There is no necessity for considering this Franco- 
Burmese Treaty in detail. It is sufficient to remark that, 
diplomatic pourparlers in Europe and acts in Burma 
being duly considered in their mutual relations, unmis- 
takable indications were not wanting that King Thi- 
baw's Government were bent upon welcoming to the 
upper valley of the Irrawaddy river foreign influence in 
such manner as, if allowed to become established and 
dominant, could not fail at some future time to trouble 
the political tranquillity of British Burma, and to engender 
complications extending beyond the British frontier. 
The law of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies 
authorizing the President of the French Republic to 
ratify the Franco- Burmese Convention of 15th January, 
1885, was not passed till the 24th November, 1885. It 
was published in the Journal Officiel of 26th November, 

^ Vide p. 170 of the Parliamentary Blue-Book, on Correspondence re- 
lating to Biirmah [C — 4614], 1886. 


the very day on which the Burmese Ministers were 
begging an armistice from the British General off Ava. 
It mayt however, be further remarked that this Franco- 
Burmese Treaty and the somewhat unfriendly attitude 
displayed during its negotiation by the French Govern- 
ment rendered absolutely impossible, on the conclusion 
of the third Burmese war, any question of deposing King 
Thibaw in favour of the Nyaungyan Prince or of enthron- 
ing any other scion of the royal house of Alaung Paya 
This first deep " pinprick " by France, and the intrigues 
of M. Haas, who reached Mandalay in May, 1885, as 
Consul of France, though not the actual castts belli, may 
therefore be looked upon as the direct and chief cause 
of the annexation of Upper Burma to the British Indian 
Empire, and of the extinction of the kingdom of Ava. 
An international treaty existing between France and Ava 
would have been binding on a King Nyaungyan ; but 
its operation ceased, ipso facto, when Upper Burma be- 
came part of the British Empire. Annexation, under 
these circumstances, was the only way of completely 
removing possible causes of friction between France and 
Britain in this particular matter. 

Having effected their object with France after a year 
and a half's residence in Paris, the Burmese Embassy 
had now at length leisure to think of the courtesy of 
calling upon the British Ambassador in Paris. They 
were received on 4th February, when they intimated their 
intention of proceeding shortly to Rome, and then re- 
turning to Burma. Thoroughly aware of their previous 
extreme discourtesy in not having observed diplomatic 
etiquette, they first of all asked the Italian Ambassador 
at Paris, General Menabrea, to ascertain if Lord Lyons 
would be willing to receive their visit. 

At Rome the Embassy delayed longer than they 
appeared to have anticipated, their stay there being 
utilized in endeavours to negotiate a convention with 
Italy on similar terms to the new Franco- Burmese 
Treaty. A treaty already existed between Burma and 
Italy, but it had been loosely drawn up by a naval 
officer, and did not contain the usual most-favoured- 
nation clause. The Italian Government declined to 



enter into negotiations till they had been assured that 
satisfaction had been given to the claims of two Italian 
subjects employed by the Ava Government, and whose 
salaries had remained unpaid for the last two years. 
The Burmese Embassy was hurriedly recalled in April, 
without any convention with Italy being agreed to ; but 
the Italian Government fully acknowledged the impos- 
sibility of the British allowing the transit of arms through 
British Burma, which was forbidden by treaty. The 
only result of the Envoy's stay in Rome was the conclu- 
sion of a treaty with the German Government, negotiated 
by Baron von Kendell, and signed on the 14th May. It 
simply secured for Germany the treatment of the most 
favoured nation, and entered into no details. There was 
nothing in it which could clash with the precautionary 
measures taken against the importation of arms through 
British Burma. 

■^^ For all the three countries chiefly concerned there 
were storm-clouds above the political horizon in 1884 
and 1885. For Britain, there had been very strained 
relations with Russia over the Panjdeh incident, and the 
crisis of 1885 was the turning-point. As the result of 
the Afghan Boundary Commission, a line was drawn 
beyond which Russian aggression would inevitably form 
a casus belli, whatever might be the political complexion 
of the British Cabinet in power. On 26th January, 1885, 
Khartoum fell, and General Gordon was killed ; on 24th 
June the Gladstonian Cabinet was replaced by one 
formed by Lord Salisbury. France, still with her hands 
sufficiently full in Tonquin, had undertaken a war with 
China which was terminated in April, 1885, about a week 
after the fall of the Ferry Cabinet. But it was over the 
kingdom of Ava that the storm-clouds lowered darkest. 

King Thibaw's misrule had become so great and 
dacoity so prevalent by the end of 1883, that large 
numbers of Upper Burmese crossed the frontier to obtain 
the advantages of British protection. Early in 1884 it 
was estimated that, within a few months, about a quarter 
of a million people had thus flocked into Lower Burma, 
while the stream of emigration was only checked by 
detaining, as hostages, the wives and children of men 

65 F 


who went down into British territory for temporary 
employment. The kingdom of Ava had at this time 
sunk to a condition of anarchy, and King Thibaw did 
not dare venture beyond the inner enclosure of his palace, 
where he was, to all practical intents, a prisoner. The 
greater part of the feudatory Shan States, forming nearly 
the half of the eastern portion of the kingdom, had been 
for about three years in open rebellion. In March, 1884, 
a serious revolt had also taken place in the northern 
districts peopled by the Kachin hill tribes, which carried 
fire and sword half way down to Mandalay. This rising 
subsided during the rainy months, but was expected to 
make head again during the open season commencing 
with November. In addition to this, rumours were cur- 
rent in Mandalay that the Myingun Prince had escaped 
from French surveillance in Pondicherry, and made his 
way to Bangkok, the capital of Siam, whence he intended 
to accomplish Thibaw's downfall, with the assistance of 
the rebellious Sawbwa of the Shan States. It was even 
suspected that the scheme originated with some of the 
Ministers, who were disgusted with the existing state of 
affairs. The jails in and near the palace were at this 
time filled with dacoits as well as political prisoners. 
Headed by the infamous Taingda Mingyi, certain of the 
Ministers went and told the King they believed some of 
the bad characters in the jail were conspiring against 
him, and they advised him to execute them, in order to 
prevent their escaping and joining the cause of the 
Myingun Prince. Some of the prisoners were insti- 
gated to make an attempt to escape, and the jailer was 
authorized to liberate certain of them. As soon as this 
order was carried out, on 22nd September, 1884, the 
jail-guard was called upon to quell the outbreak, the 
Taingda Mingyi and other Ministers and officials ap- 
peared at^ the head of troops from the palace, and the 
work of indiscriminate massacre began. Orders were 
given by the Taingda to set fire to the jail, and a con- 
tinuous fire of musketry was kept up from the house of 
his son-in-law, the Governor of the South Gate, on the 
prisoners as they flocked out of the prison to escape from 
the flames. Those who managed to get outside the jail 



were pursued and slaughtered in the streets of the city, 
the gates being closed to prevent their escape beyond 
the city walls. The slaughter was not merely confined 
to the prison within the inner palace, to which fire was 
set, but was likewise extended to the other two prisons 
situated without the inner enclosure. Thibaw, alarmed 
and excited, directed that all political prisoners were to 
be killed, and that all who rebelled against his authority 
were to be immediately executed ; while orders were 
given to the rural Governors that all the prisoners con- 
fined in the district jails should be sent to Mandalay. 

The number of men, women and children thus brutally 
massacred on the 22nd and following days is estimated 
to have been between 200 and 300 in all. On the day 
after the chief massacre, the corpses were carted out of 
the city, and were exposed for some days in the burial 
ground to the west. Here they remained, mutilated, 
putrefying, and uncovered with earth, to show how 
terrible a thing it was to incur the royal displeasure. 
Hands and legs were hacked off to loosen the prison 
irons, before the putrefying bodies were thrown, in heaps 
of four or five together, into shallow graves and given 
an insufficient covering of about a foot of earth. While 
these atrocities were being perpetrated, and whilst pigs 
and pariah dogs unearthed the corpses and battened on 
the loathsome feast thus plentifully provided for them 
by the inhumanity of the King, his consort, and his 
Ministers, high festival was being held within the palace. 
Theatrical performances were given continuously nio-ht 
after night ; boats, containing musicians, were moored 
along the banks of the river ; the King's steamers plied 
between Mandalay and Sagaing, taking passengers free 
of charge ; and everything was done to distract the 
attention of the people from the awful horrors that were 
being perpetrated round about them. 

There is good reason for supposing that this wholesale 
massacre was instigated by the Taingda Mingyi and 
a few of the other Ministers, in order to save themselves 
from the consequences that might ensue if some of their 
followers, then in jail, should obtain their freedom by the 
disclosure of facts implicating these high officials in the 



dacoities and intrigues which they had long been carrying 
on. The ringleader of those who were instigated to 
attempt their escape, and who were, therefore, the first 
to be shot down, was a dacoit Bo, or chief, named 
Yan Min, an infamous robber, whose hands had often 
been stained with the blood of murdered victinis. When 
captured some time previously, he had been liberated in 
order to go and fight against the rebellious Shan chiefs ; 
but, instead of doing this, he again began plundering, and 
continued pillaging until his recapture was effected. 

A public meeting was held in Rangoon on the nth 
October, when feelings of indignation were expressed, 
and resolutions passed memorializing the Government 
of India to interfere immediately in Upper Burma, and 
either annex the kingdom of Ava or constitute it a pro- 
tected State under some other ruler than Thibaw. As 
grounds for this removal were urged the misery and dis- 
tress caused by King Thibaw's misgovernment and the 
mutual interdependence of Upper and Lower Burma as 
regarded tranquillity and property. But trade returns 
showed that, notwithstanding King Thibaw's misgovern- 
ment, the value of the total trade between British Burma 
and Ava for the four years after Thibaw's accession 
was, despite the previously mentioned fall in 1881-82, 
when his monopolies were in force, considerably greater 
than during the last four years of Mindon's reign, the 
average annual values being respectively £'^,22^,Z\^ 
and 23,061,174. 

In October, 1884, the Rangoon Chamber of Com- 
merce had also memorialized to the same effect as the 
public meeting, urging either annexation or a change of 
king, the former for choice ; and undoubtedly trade had 
for the moment become paralysed. At the time of the 
public meeting being held handbills in Burmese were 
posted and distributed throughout Rangoon, describing 
King Thibaw as an inveterate drunkard and a monster 
of cruelty, and declaring it was necessary to call upon 
the British Government to annex Ava. Native mer- 
chants and traders fell into a state of panic, and trade 
naturally became stagnant until it was known definitely 
what line of policy the Government of India intended to 



pursue. But it was obviously not in accordance with 
modern ideas of international relations to interfere with 
the internal government of a neighbouring country, or 
to annex that country merely because commerce there- 
with was not increasing so rapidly as British Chambers 
of Commerce might wish. 

To a certain extent the British Government were un- 
doubtedly responsible for the existing state of affairs. 
Had it not been for the preventive measures taken by 
them, Thibaw would have before this time been de- 
posed in favour of either the Ngaungyan or the Myin- 
gun Prince. But King Thibaw was an ally of the 
British. Though he had not proved a friendly ally, yet 
he kept to the Treaty existing between the two nations. 
The character and antecedents of his Government were 
such that it was not possible for the British Govern- 
ment to offer any assistance which might seat him more 
firmly on his unstable throne; but, at the same time, 
neither the atrocities which had marked his reign, both 
shortly after his accession and also quite recently, nor 
the internal condition of anarchy and misgovernment 
within his realm, seemed to justify the armed interven- 
tion of the British Government with a view of either 
annexing the kingdom of Ava or of reducing it to the 
level of a feudatory State, nominally governed by the 
Nyaungyan or the Myingun Prince. 

While these matters were still receiving the considera- 
tion of the Governor of India, the town of Bhamo, 
situated about 200 miles north of Mandalay and the cen- 
tre of trade with Western China, was captured and sacked 
by Chinese marauders on 8th December, 1884. Fortu- 
nately there was no reason to believe that this seizure 
was instigated by the Chinese Government, as this would 
have introduced a still further complication into the al- 
ready existing tangle of affairs. Under any circumstances, 
however, it meant the strangulation of the trade between 
Rangoon and Bhamo until the country around the latter 
town was once more in a settled state. Between Man- 
dalay and the frontier the country was overrun with 
numerous and powerful bands of dacoits. No troops 
could be sent against them, as all the rabble soldiery 



was required for the operations towards Bhamo. The 
Governor of Mao^we was murdered by one gang, while 
the Governor of Saldmyo was attacked in open court by 
another, and narrowly escaped with his life. To avoid 
attacks and international questions the commanders of 
the British mail steamers were desired by rural Governors 
to anchor their vessels in the river under steani at night, 
in place of following the usual course of mooring along- 
side the bank. 

Of all these various matters the Government of India 
had full cognizance. They were also aware of the sensi- 
ble alteration which the conclusion of the Franco- Burmese 
Treaty of 15 th January, 1885, made in the political situa- 
tion, and they could not but be apprehensive that the 
presence of M. Haas as Consul of France at Mandalay 
was likely to increase their difficulties in dealing with the 
Court of Ava. Hence they were of opinion that some- 
thing should be done to restore British influence at 

The situation was surrounded with difficulties, the 
satisfactory solution of which was far from easy. It was 
not considered desirable to insist upon the reception of a 
British agent at Mandalay. After the withdrawal of 
Mr. St. Barbc in 1879, the Burmese Government were 
informed that any overtures for revision of existing re- 
lations, or for the return of a political officer, must pro- 
ceed from them. And if, despite the altered circumstan- 
ces, negotiations with either or both of these objects had 
been opened by the Government of India, this would 
have amounted to a cancellation of their intimation of 
1879, and might easily have been misconstrued in Man- 
dalay as a sign of timidity or even of actual weakness 
on the part of the Government of India. It could hardly 
be anticipated that a British agent would be suitably 
received and properly treated save under pressure of an 
authoritative demand supported by a display of armed 
force, for action of which nature the season was inoppor- 
tune. Again, if any secret political alliance, involving 
ulterior designs inconsistent with British interests, had 
been concluded between France and Ava, the reception 
and courteous treatment of a British agent, while not 



necessarily re-establishing British influence, would have 
the effect of embarrassing the British position if more 
direct measures of interference became unavoidable. 
Under these circumstances the Government of India 
were unable to recommend to the British Cabinet any 
specific course of action. They could only watch the 
affairs of Ava with special care and anxiety, in the hope 
that before long some satisfactory solution of the diffi- 
culty might present itself. And such did present itself 
most opportunely and satisfactorily within less than six 
months from the time when this resolution of the Govern- 
ment of India was taken in March, 1885. So desirous 
were the Government of India to avoid irritating the 
susceptibilities of King Thibaw and his Ministers that 
they did not even send any letter of remonstrance re- 
garding the September massacres as was proposed by 
Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Bernard, the Chief Com- 
missioner of Burma. There was no proof that British 
subjects were sufferers in the course of the barbarities ; 
and it was thought doubtful that a letter of protest 
would have any useful result, even if it pointed out that, 
by keeping away from Burma other claimants to the 
throne of Ava, the Government of India were assisting 
in maintaining Thibaw in undisturbed possession of the 

The declaration of this policy of non-interference for 
the present created much discontent in commercial cir- 
cles, and the Rangoon Chamber of Commerce addressed 
a circular letter to the various Chambers of Commerce in 
Great Britain, practically desiring them to bring pressure 
to bear on the British Cabinet. British Burma's geogra- 
phical position, its ethnological conditions, its natural 
wealth, and the undeniable fact that public works and 
internal development were starved owing to more than 
one-third of the revenue raised in Burma being appro- 
priated by India, were all used as arguments for cutting 
British Burma adrift from the Indian Empire and con- 
stituting it a Crown colony. Their appeal closed with 
the words : — 

"Were British Burma a colony independent of India, not only 



would much more have been done by this time to develop its own 
resources, but a firmer policy in connexion with the petty kings be- 
yond British territory would have done much to extend British trade 
through a large part of Indo-China, and have made Rangoon one of the 
largest trade centres in the world." 

This agitation for the constitution of British Burma as 
a Crown colony would undoubtedly have been pushed 
with vigour but for the favourable trend affairs took 
later on in the year 1885. 

The British Government, while concurring in the 
opinion that the state of affairs in Ava did not justify 
armed intervention, considered that, both for commer- 
cial and political reasons, diplomatic representations 
should be resumed at Mandalay. Under the Yandabu 
Treaty of 1826, the Court of Ava were bound to receive 
a British Resident with an armed escort of fifty men ; 
and they were not cognizant of any communication hav- 
ing been made in 1879 which need act as a bar to the 
adoption of this measure whenever convenient. But the 
time and the manner of resuming direct representation 
were left to the discretion of the Government of India. 

The apprehensions entertained as to the activity of 
the French Consul at Mandalay in obtaining ^'concessions'^ 
of various sorts, and in generally creating a commercial 
and political position for France quite incompatible with 
the previously existing predominating British interests, 
were almost immediately verified. Before the arrival of 
M. Haas, the Consul of France appointed to Mandalay 
in charge of French interests at the Court of Ava, a 
French engineer, M. Bonvillein, was reported to be 
negotiating for a lease of the whole of the ruby mines 
at Mogok and Kyatpyin for fifteen years at an annual 
rental of three lacs of rupees (^20,000 a year). But 
the endeavours of Lord Lyons to obtain authentic 
information regarding this reported concession were un- 

M. Haas, who reached Mandalay in May, 1885, had 
not been there a couple of months before abundant evi- 
dence was forthcoming of the strong position which 
he and other French agents were endeavouring to estab- 
lish for themselves with a view to acquiring a predomi- 



nant influence in Ava, which might be utilized at some 
future time in joining hands with the French possessions 
on the upper reaches of the Red River. His first efforts 
were towards the establishment of a French bank, hav- 
ing a capital of twenty-five million francs, the running 
of a French flotilla on the Irrawaddy, the working of 
the ruby mines, and the opening out of a trade route 
from Mandalay through the Shan States to Upper Ton- 
quin. His main idea was to grant loans to the King and 
in return therefor to obtain industrial concessions, on the 
ground that, even if Britain should ultimately be driven 
to annex the country, actual concessions to French sub- 
jects would be respected. In pursuance of this policy 
he urged upon the Court of Ava the necessity of avoid- 
ing any collision with the British Government ; and he 
also advised them to ask for a Resident, as otherwise 
they ran great risk of having one forced upon them on 
terms they would not like. This temporizing was de- 
clined in favour of a continuation of the policy of pro- 
crastination, for the more wilful and ignorant among the 
King's advisers believed that if the tension with Russia 
had led to actual war the British would have lost India, 
and the kingdom of Ava would once more have extended 
to the sea-coast skirting the Bay of Bengal. It was the 
intention of the Burmese Government that, if the British 
had at this time their hands full of troubles, the oppor- 
tunity would have been taken to pick a quarrel with 
them. M. Haas pointed out the folly of such a course 
before the Court of Ava had strengthened their position 
by forming alliances with other European nations. He 
pressed the Ministers to profit by the present attitude of 
the Government of India towards Ava informing treaties 
with France, Italy, and Germany, and to get each of 
these countries to proclaim Ava as neutral territory. 
In pursuance of this astute advice the Pangyet Wun- 
dauk, one of the Ministers of the State Council who 
spoke French fluently, was accordingly despatched once 
more to Europe during the second half of July, 1885. 

Finding the Ministers reluctant to follow his views, 
M. Haas, early in July, endeavoured to work upon the 
King through the Thdthandbaing, or Buddhist Arch- 



bishop, who had frequent personal interviews with 
Thibaw for enumerating the advantages to be derived 
from a close and intimate alliance with France. M. Haas 
offered to work with the Burmese Ministers in organ- 
izing the finances and the general administration of the 
country, promised the maintenance of the integrity of 
Ava, and gave assurances that when Tonquin became 
tranquil the Burmese would have free passage for any- 
thing they required. 

So far as concerned preliminary contracts for conces- 
sions of a valuable nature, M. Haas' machinations were 
successful. By the middle of July terms of contracts for 
the construction of a French railway in Upper Burma, 
and for the establishment of a bank in Ava, had been 
arranged, and the preliminary contracts already signed 
and completed in Mandalay, and before the end of the 
month they were being taken by the Pangyet Wundauk, 
or "chief of the glassboilers," then accredited as Am- 
bassador Plenipotentiary to reside permanently in Paris, 
for formal completion by the French Government. The 
first contract related to the construction of a railway from 
Mandalay to the British frontier of Toungoo — to the 
chief town in which district a line had just then been 
opened from Rangoon — at the joint expense of the 
French Government and of a company to be formed for 
the purpose. The capital was to be about ^2,500,000, 
and the line was to be completed within seven years. The 
concession was to last for seventy years, when the line was 
to become the property of the Burmese Government. 
Interest on the capital outlay was meanwhile to be at the 
rate of 7 J- per cent, and its payment was to be secured 
by the hypothecation of the river customs and the earth- 
oil dues of the kingdom. The other contract was for 
the establishment, by the French Government and a 
company, of a Bank of Burma with a capital of rupees 
25,000,000 (or ^1,666,666). Loans were to be made to 
the King at the rate of 1 2 per cent., and other loans at the 
rate of 18 per cent. The bank was to be administered 
by a syndicate of French and Burmese officials. It was 
to issue notes, and to have the management of the ruby 
mines and the monopoly of Letpet or " pickled tea." 



If finally ratified and carried out, these agreements 
would have given the French Government, or a syndicate 
on which the French Government would have been 
strongly represented, practically the full control over the 
principal sources of revenue in Ava, and over the only 
route open for traffic from British ports to Western 
China. The consequences would have been disastrous to 
British trade, and to the interests of British Burma. If 
once firmly established in Ava, the French would, no 
doubt, have tried to induce other European nations to 
neutralize Ava and have the Mandalay river declared, 
like the Danube, open to vessels of all nationalities. As 
the proposed arrangements were still in an inchoate 
state, there was yet time to take steps either at Paris or 
Mandalay to prevent their conclusion, and the startling 
discovery of the letter of 15th January, 1885, from M. 
Jules Ferry to the Prime Minister of Ava, already re- 
ferred to (page 63), thoroughly opened the eyes of the 
Government of India and the British Cabinet to the un- 
friendliness of France and the hostility of Ava. The 
Government of India unanimously recommended that 
the reception and proper treatment of a British Resident 
at Mandalay, to whose advice in all matters of foreign 
policy the Court of Ava should submit, ought to be 
insisted on ; and that, if those terms were refused, 
measures of coercion should he adopted. 

In an interview at the Foreign Office in London on 
7th August, Lord Salisbury informed M. Waddington, 
the French Ambassador, of the information he had re- 
ceived regarding a proposed concession to French capi- 
talists, which would include the control over the Post 
Office, railways, steam navigation, and various branches 
of revenue ; and he pointed out that, if such an under- 
taking were attempted to be carried to any practical 
issue, the necessary consequence would be that the 
British Government would have to intervene and ma- 
terially restrict the liberty and power of the King ot 
Burma. M. Waddington replied that he had no know- 
ledge of the alleged concession, but promised to make 
inquiries and communicate again on the subject. As no 
such communication was forthcoming, Lord Salisbury 



on 9th September desired Sir J. Walsham, Chargi 
cT Affaires at Paris, to bring to the notice of M. 
de Freycinet, the receipt of reports from authentic 
sources clearly indicating that the French consul at 
Mandalay was pursuing a policy which British interests 
could not permit, and that the King of Burma would not 
be allowed to carry out any commercial projects which 
could issue in the establishment of any preponderating 
influence in Ava other than that of the Indian Govern- 
ment. Before the end of September M. Waddington 
was authorized to inform Lord Salisbury that the French 
Government knew absolutely nothing about any such 
agreements, and that they had given no kind of authority 
for making them. If made at all, they must have been 
made at the instance of some speculative company. 
Early in October M. Haas was ''mis en disponibilitd pour 
raison de santdl' and his machinations and intrigues in 
Mandalay were at an end. M. Haas is now, or was until 
quite recently. Consul of France at Chunking in Sze- 
chuan, in the heart of the Yangtse valley — absit oJiien. 

While these diplomatic representations were being 
conducted an occurrence took place, most opportunely, in 
August, 1885, which demanded even more prompt and 
decided action, while at the same time it had the un- 
questionable advantage of fixing the quarrel with the 
King of Ava on an issue with which the French Govern- 
ment could not under any circumstances possibly admit 
themselves to be mixed up. Hence their keen national 
susceptibilities could not in any way be touched by the 
action now forced upon, and about to be taken by, the 
British Cabinet. 

For many years back the Ningyan teak forests 
covering the low hills north of our frontier above Toun- 
goo, and drained by the Sittang river and its tributaries, 
had been worked by the Bombay-Burma Trading Cor- 
poration, Limited, a large Bombay joint-stock concern, 
whose chief offices and mills were in Rangoon, although 
direct and ultimate control lay with the firm of Messrs. 
Wallace Brothers, of Austin Friars, London. In April, 
1885, representations were made by the Corporation to 
the Chief Commissioner of Burma that their working of 



the forests was being seriously impeded by action which 
was being taken on a charge, alleged to have been false, 
of having bribed the Governor of Ningyan to connive at 
the King being deprived of the full amount of revenue 
due on the timber extracted. In reply to a communica- 
tion addressed to him on the subject by the Chief Com- 
misioner, the Foreign Minister stated that the Corpora- 
tion's foresters had extracted 80,000 logs, while only 
32,000 had been paid for. Facilities were given for the 
examination of the Toungoo Forest Office records show- 
ing the number of teak logs imported from Upper Burma, 
and the Corporation were prepared to produce the ac- 
quittances in full signed by their foresters. It was like- 
wise pointed out that the apparent shortage in actual 
revenue paid might be due to the fact of the working of 
the forests having taken place under three separate con- 
tracts. In 1880 the Corporation contracted to pay the 
King at fixed rates per log for all full-sized logs ex- 
tracted ; under another contract, of 1 882, they paid a lump 
sum of one lac of rupees (;^6,666) for all the undersized 
and inferior logs rejected under the contract of 1880; 
and in a third contract, of 1883, they agreed to pay from 
October, 1884, a lump sum annually of 3J lacs (^23,333) 
for all full-sized logs and of one lac (^6,666) for undersized 
and inferior logs. The records of the Forest Depart- 
ment at Toungoo did not then make any attempt to 
classify the logs as to size and quality ; and there was 
nothing to show that any given log came under the cate- 
gory falling under the contract of 1880, or of 1882, or of 
1883. No reply was received to this letter, but the 
Hlutdaw, or High Court of Ava, on 12th August, 1885, 
delivered judgment that the Corporation had defrauded 
the King of revenue amounting to nearly 1 1 lacs of 
rupees (.2^73,333) and consequently fined them the double 
of that amount, while they further decreed the payment 
to foresters in the Corporation's employ of sums aggre- 
gating about five lacs of rupees (^33,333). In deciding 
thus the Ministers based their finding entirely upon the 
figures of the Toungoo Forest Office returns, ignoring 
the lump sum contracts of 1882 and 1883 and the 
records maintained by the Ningyan officials. The Cor- 



poration were ordered to pay an amount of 23 lacs 
(^153,333) in four equal monthly instalments, otherwise 
their timber in the Ningyan forests would be seized to 
the extent of the default. 

The Corporation pleaded that under no construction 
of their leases could such a sum as 1 1 lacs (^73-333) be 
justly due from them, that they could not pay the enor- 
mous fine demanded, and that they feared their leases 
and their property then in the forests would be taken 
from them and transferred to others. It was also stated 
on good authority that the French Consul had offered to 
take the forests if the Corporation's lease were cancelled ; 
and it is certain that M. Haas and M. Bonvillein were 
intimately concerned with the proceedings of the Bur- 
mese Government. 

These matters having been duly reported to the 
Government of India and the British Cabinet, intimation 
was, on 28th August, given to the Court of Ava that 
the British Government insisted on British subjects in 
the position of the Bombay-Burma Corporation receiving 
a fair trial in place of being, perhaps unjustly, ruined by 
the arbitrary imposition of an enormous fine, or by the 
sudden cancellation of their leases. The suspension of 
the realization of the decree of the Hlutdaw and of the 
order as to cancellation of the Corporation's leases was 
desired until the matter in dispute between the King's 
forest officers and the Corporation could be fully in- 
vestigated and adjusted ; and an offer was made to appoint 
a judicial officer of experience to investigate the facts at 
Ningyan and Toungoo, if the Court of Ava were willing 
to abide by the decision of such an arbitrator. 

It was not till the middle of October that a reply to 
this communication was received from the Burmese 
Government. They questioned the right of the Govern- 
ment of India to raise the subject, and very definitely 
declined to agree to the proposed arbitration or to sus- 
pend action against the Corporation, whose rafts they 
had begun to stop on 20th September, two days before 
the first instalment of the heavy fine was demanded. 
With the unanimous consent of his colleagues and the full 
approval of Lord Salisbury's Cabinet, the Viceroy, Lord 



Dufferin, authorized the Chief Commissioner of Burma 
to despatch an ultimatum to King Thibaw, demanding 
the acceptance of certain definite proposals for the 
settlement of existing disputes and the establishment of 
satisfactory relations with Ava, and warning them that in 
the event of the proposals not being accepted the Go- 
vernment of India would take the matter into their own 
hands. The terms of this ultimatum, despatched on 
22nd October, were the suitable reception of a Resident 
with free access to the King, the entire suspension of pro- 
ceedings against the Bombay- Burma Corporation until 
the arrival of the Resident, and the acceptance of a per- 
manent Resident with a proper guard for his protection. 
The Court of Ava were also warned that they would be 
expected in future to regulate their external affairs in ac- 
cordance with the advice of the Government of India 
(as in the case of Afghanistan) and to grant proper 
facilities for the development of British trade with 
Western China through Bhamo. Simultaneously with 
the despatch of the ultimatum, troops were moved over 
from India to Burma in sufficient numbers to convince 
the Court of Ava that the British Government were in 
earnest, that any injury to British subjects or to their 
property would not be overlooked, and that undisguised 
hostilities to the British Empire would no longer be 
permitted. The ultimatum was despatched by a special 
steamer, the Ashley Eden, to Mandalay so as to reach 
there on or before the 30th October, and intimation was 
given that, if unmolested, she would remain there till 
5th November, in order to bring back the King's reply. 
She was to leave Mandalay without fail on the morning 
of the 6th November; and, if she brought no satisfac- 
tory reply to Rangoon by the evening of the loth, the 
British Government would proceed to take such further 
action as seemed fit. 

King Thibaw and his Ministers little imagined that 
during 1878 a plan of campaign against Mandalay had 
been drawn up in the Military Department of the 
Government of India and had been carefully corrected 
and revised from time to time, that orders had already 
been issued to Major-General Prendergast commanding 



the extraordinary troops in Burma to carry out these 
military operations as soon as he received his orders to 
cross the frontier, or that a poHtical officer had already, 
during October, been selected, and four young civil 
officers warned for service to accompany the army and 
arrange for pacifying the country through the native 
officials, under the orders of the military commandants. 
The Burmese Government were utterly unprepared for 
war, and never realized that the British Government 
would really proceed to extremities. 

The reply to the ultimatum was duly received on the 
9th November. It was tantamount to a refusal or 
evasion of the three terms. It declined to discuss or 
negotiate the case against the Corporation, and said that 
if the British Government wished to re-establish an 
agent, he would '' be permitted to come and go as in former 
times!' As for external affairs, they intended to manage 
these for themselves, intimating boldly that '' frie7idly 
relations with France, Italy , and other States have been, 
are bei?ig, and will be mahitained'' \ while, with regard to 
the opening up of trade between Rangoon and Western 
China, commerce would " be assisted in conformity with 
the customs of the country ^ 

Simultaneously with this announcement, King Thibaw 
on 7th November issued a proclamation (see page 83) 
throughout his dominions, calling upon all his officials 
and subjects to expel the English, who threatened war 
and intended to destroy the religion and the national 
customs of the Burmese, and announcing his intention of 
taking the field in person if the British attacked his 
kingdom, of exterminating them, and of annexing their 
^ On loth November the Viceroy telegraphed to the 
Secretary of State, proposing, with the approval of the 
British Government, to commence hostile operations at 
once. Next day the short reply was flashed back, 
" Please instruct General Prendergast to advance on 
Mandalay at once " ; and the third Burmese war was 
begun. Had action been delayed, a situation most preju- 
dicial to the commercial and political interests of Britain 
would have been created in Upper Burma, and with 



which it might hereafter have been difficult to deal. As 
it was, the decree of the French Senate on 24th Novem- 
ber, 1885, authorizing the ratification of the Franco- 
Burmese Convention of 15th January, 1885 (which might 
possibly have caused complications), was promulgated too 
late to save King Thibaw from downfall. The ancient 
kingdom of Ava was ultimately ruined, mainly through 
French machinations, and through Thibaw leaning on the 
broken reed of covert French political support. It was 
not until the extremest limits of forbearance had been 
exceeded that the declaration of war took place. Under 
the circumstances there was no other course left open. 
To have prolonged forbearance further, in the face of the 
many provocations received, would have soon brought 
about a crisis which would have had to be met under 
conditions more embarrassing to Britain, and more likely 
to curtail heavier sufferings upon the people of Upper 
Burma than they were now about to be called upon to 
endure. Major-General Prendergast was definitely in- 
structed to remember that he was about to operate in a 
country inhabited by a people kindred to our own 
Burmese subjects in race, in religion, and in material 
interests, and that he was not attacking a hostile nation, 
but a perverse and impracticable Court. After the 
attitude of France, and the machinations of M. Haas, the 
French Consul, and other French subjects, nothing short 
of annexation had become possible : for the Nyaungyan 
Prince, the only member of the royal house of Alaung 
Payd whose abilities and character would have de- 
served serious consideration as to raising him to the 
status of the ruler of a protected State, was now dead. 

chapter IV 

BER, 1885, TO 1ST JANUARY, 1886). 

ON 2ist October, 1885, the Government of India 
ordered an expeditionary force to proceed to 
Burma in readiness for active service in Ava, if necessary. 
It was under the command of Major-General (afterwards 
Sir Harry) Prendergast, V.C., and was concentrated at 
Thayetmyo, the frontier miUtary station on the Irra- 
waddy river. On the 13th November the orders for its 
advance on Mandalay were issued ; and on the 14th the 
frontier was crossed, the line of advance being up the 
I rrawaddy. 

Early in November General Prendergast had been 
made aware of the nature of the ultimatum despatched 
to the Court of Ava, and had been warned to hold 
himself in readiness to immediately carry out the plan of 
operations prescribed by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir 
Frederick Roberts, V.C. (now Earl Roberts, K.G.), in the 
event of intimation being given that the reply from 
Mandalay was unsatisfactory. From the moment of 
entering Avan territory General Prendergast was in- 
vested with supreme political as well as military 
authority, while Colonel (afterwards Sir Edward) Sladen 
and some junior officers of the British Burma Com- 
mission were attached to the force as political officers 
under his orders. Explicit instructions were given to 
him that Mandalay was to be occupied and King Thibaw 
dethroned, and that no offer of submission was to be 
accepted which could affect the movement of the troops. 
These facts were to be definitely made known to all the 
Burmese authorities, and to the population, during the 



progress towards the capital. In the event of annexation 
being decided on, Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Bernard 
would be directed to proceed to Mandalay and assume 
civil control ; but, in the meantime. General Prendergast 
was to garrison every important fort or town and leave 
there a civil officer who should, under the orders of the 
commandant of the troops, place himself in communica- 
tion with the local Burmese officials, and through them 
pacify and administer the country, giving assurances that 
King Thibaw would not remain in power. As the objects 
of the expedition were the occupation of Mandalay and the 
dethronement of Thibaw, these results were to be gained 
bloodlessly, if possible, by the simple display of force. 
Any conflict with the population at large was to be 
avoided, and everthing was to be done to try and secure, 
without bloodshed, their acquiescence in the administrative 
and political changes that would be found necessary. 

While these instructions were being forwarded from 
Calcutta to Rangoon, King Thibaw had uttered a feeble 
but vainglorious war-cry throughout the kingdom of Ava. 
Following immediately on his rejection of the British 
proposals on 7th November, 1885, he issued a bombastic 
proclamation to the following effect : — 

" To the headmen of all towns and villages, heads of cavalry, chief 
umpires and referees, shield-bearers, heads of jails, heads of gold and 
silver revenues, mine workers, arbitrators, forest officials, and all the 
subjects and inhabitants of the royal territories : 

" Those heretics, the English Kala {i.e., non-mongolian barbarians), 
having most harshly made demands likely to impair and destroy our 
religion, violate our national customs, and degrade our race, are making 
a display and preparation as if about to wage war against our State. 
Reply has been sent to them in conformity with the usages of great 
nations, and in words which are just and regular. But if these heretic 
Kala should come and attempt to molest or disturb the State in any 
way, His Majesty the King, watchful that the interests of religion and 
of the State shall not suffer, will himself march forth with his generals, 
captains, and lieutenants, with large forces of infantry, cavalry, artillery, 
and elephants, and with the might of his army will by land and water 
efface these heretic Kala, and conquer and annex their territories. All 
the inhabitants of the royal kingdom of Ava are enjoined not to be 
alarmed or disturbed on account of the hostility of these heretic Kala^ 
and they are not to avoid them by leaving the country. They are to 
continue to carry on their occupations as usual in a peaceful manner. 
The local officials are, each in his own town or village, to watch and see 



that there are no thefts, dacoities, or other State crimes. The royal troops 
now being sent forth will not be collected, as formerly, by forcibly 
pressing into service all who can be found : but the royal troops now 
banded into regiments in Mandalay will be sent forth to attack, destroy, 
and annex. The local officials are not to impress forcibly into service 
any one who may not wish to serve; but to uphold the rehgion, the 
national honour, and the country's interests, will bring threefold religious 
merit— good of religion, good of the King, and good of the nation — 
and will result in leading along the path of the celestial regions to 
Neikban (Nirvana). Whoever joins and serves zealously will receive 
money and royal rewards, and will serve in the capacity for which he 
may be found fit. Loyal officials are to search for volunteers and 
others who may wish to serve, and are to send lists of them to the 
provincial governments." 

General Prendergast was also, on the day on which 
the advance was ordered, provided with a Proclamation 
to be issued to all priests, officials, traders, agriculturists, 
and other inhabitants of the tracts he passed through ; 
but it was in a very different strain from Thibaw's 
manifesto. After briefly narrating the circumstances 
under which the Government of India had found them- 
selves compelled to undertake the expedition, and their 
consequent intention to dethrone him, it concluded by 
saying : — 

" It is the earnest desire of the Viceroy and Governor-General ol 
India that bloodshed should be avoided, and that the peaceful inhabit- 
ants of all classes should be encouraged to pursue their usual callings 
without fear of molestation. None will have anything to apprehend so 
long as you do not oppose the passage of the troops. . . . Your 
private rights, your religion, and national customs will be scrupulously 
respected, and the Government of India will recognize the services of 
all amongst you, whether officials or others, who show zeal in assisting 
the British authorities to preserve order." 

The expeditionary force comprised a Naval Brigade, 
under Captain R. Woodward, R.N., formed of detach- 
ments from the ships of Admiral Sir Frederick Richards' 
squadron, then lying at Rangoon, three regiments of 
British Infantry, seven regiments of native Infantry, six 
companies of Sappers and Miners, one Field Battery and 
two Garrison Batteries of Royal Artillery, and one British 
and two native Mountain Batteries. Its total strength 
was 9,467 men, with "j^ guns, of which 27 were quick- 
firing machine guns. Piloted by the river-steamer 



I. M.S. Irrawaddy, the expeditionary force ascended In 
twenty-four steamers and twenty-three flats chartered 
from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. The land forces 
were divided into three brigades, respectively com- 
manded by Brigadiers-General H. H. Foord, G. S. 
White, V.C., and F. B. Norman. The campaign com- 
menced by the Irrawaddy, which crossed the frontier 
about noon on the 14th November, engaging and 
capturing a King's steamer, which was sent down to 
Thayetmyo in charge of the launch Kathleen, while the 
Irrawaddy brought down the two flats that she had 
been towing. One of these had been prepared for sink- 
ing in the river, and had rows of posts, each ten feet high 
by six inches square, let into the deck and sharpened 
into points which must inevitably have destroyed any 
shallow-bottomed river steamer that ran against them. 
When the steamer was shelled, and its deck cleared for 
action, the crew jumped overboard and fled, accompanied 
by Commotto, one of two Italian adventurers (Commotto 
and Molinari) who had become the hirelings of the King. 
Commotto had been allotted the task of blockinof the 
river near the frontier, which he was on his way to 
accomplish, while Molinari was charged with strengthen- 
ing the fortifications below Mandalay. From the papers 
left on the steamer by Commotto information was ob- 
tained as to the King's military preparations, which 
corroborated the news given by the commanders of the 
last two Irrawaddy Flotilla Company's steamers which 
had run the gauntlet of the forts in their latest trip 
down stream. On the i6th November the Burmese 
stockades erected at Nyaungbinmaw and Sinbaungwe, 
positions held respectively on the right and the left 
banks of the river, were carried without any serious 
fighting. On the following day the forts of Minhla 
on the right bank, and Gwegyaung Kamyo on the left 
bank were captured after some sharp fighting. The 
former was strengthened and garrisoned, while the latter 
was demolished. The ordinary garrison of Gwegyaung 
Kamyo was 700, but it had been reinforced by 1,000 men 
three days previously. They fled on the appearance at 
close quarters of the British infantry, who had marched 



seven miles through the jungle to the rear of the fort 
On the right bank three native regiments landed, and 
after breaking down two outer lines of defence stormed 
Minhla fort after three hours' fighting. The Burmese, 
well concealed, fired rapidly, and disputed every mch of 
the way to the redoubt ; but, when once it was rushed, 
they fled from the fort and their rout was complete. 
The town of Minhla was burned down, being accident- 
ally set fire to by the shells thrown at the redoubt. 
This was the only place where anything like stubborn 
resistance was offered to the British arms. Mr. Phayre, 
who had been Assistant Resident at Mandalay until 
October, 1879, was left behind as civil officer. The 
people and the priests appeared to willingly accept the 
new situation, though the high officials could not be 
expected to submit till they knew that Mandalay had 
fallen. At Magwe, on the 20th, Commotto and Molinari, 
the two Italians who had guaranteed to Thibaw that 
British troops would not be able to pass the frontier 
forts constructed and fortified by them, surrendered 
themselves as prisoners of war. 

On 22nd November shots were exchanged with the 
batteries at Nyaungu, just above Pagan, but the works 
were soon abandoned by the Burmese and dismantled, 
the guns being spiked. The Burmese soldiers, who 
numbered 1,000, had been plundering and robbing all 
the villages in the vicinity. At Pagdn another military 
post was established, with a civil officer to initiate the 
work of administration. 

At Pakokko, which was passed on the 24th, about 
1,000 soldiers from Mandalay had been stationed, but 
they ran away on the approach of the British. That 
same afternoon Myingyan, a large and important town 
near the mouth of the Chindwin river, was reached. A 
large Burmese force was reported to be holding the forts 
there. While the big guns were engaging the batteries 
on the river's bank, a body of about 2,000 men, dressed 
in red, white, and magenta coats, and with chiefs havino- 
golden umbrellas held over them, were seen on rising 
ground some three miles inland. These were the head- 
quarters and the reserve of the Burmese army, but the 



force took no part in the fighting-. Before operations 
could be resumed next morning the Burmese withdrew, 
and the twenty- one guns forming the two batteries were 
destroyed. On the previous evening the commander of 
the Burmese forces, the Hlethin Atwin Wun, who was 
considered to be the best of Thibaw's generals, tele- 
graphed to the King that he had gained a great victory 
over the British ; but the truth was soon known in the 
capital. This easy capture of Myingyan, where 6,000 
picked troops are said to have been sent, practically 
decided the campaign ; for it was afterwards ascertained 
that if the British had received any check here, the 
Burmese intended to hold out at Ava and Sagaing, and 
compel the expeditionary force to undertake siege opera- 
tions. A garrison and a civil officer were left at Myin- 
gyan. Many Burmese, who had previously fled from 
the town while it was in the hands of Thibaw's troops, 
came in to welcome the British arrival. The head 
Pongyi (or religious recluse) said the town had been 
an abode of miser)^ whilst the soldiery was there, that 
two hundred ponies had been requisitioned for the King's 
cavalry, that robber)- had been prevalent, that property 
had been stolen, and women had been dragged from 
their houses and ravished. 

On the 26th November Yandabii, the extreme limit 
of the advance of the British troops during the first 
Burmese war in 1826, was passed, and on that after- 
noon, near the village of Nazu, the State barge, 
paddled by forty-four men, came flying a flag of 
truce at the bow and the King's ensign at the stern. 
Seated in the bows and wearinof enormous Shan 
hats were the Kyaukmyaung Atwin Wun and the 
Wetmasut Wundauk, who came as Envoys bearing a 
memorandum from the Prime Minister. Coming on 
board without their shoes, they delivered this document 
to General Prendergast and Colonel Sladen. It was 
unsigned by the King, but bore the royal peacock seal. 
Beginning naively with the statement that the Burmese 
Government were under the impression that the former 
friendly conditions would still prevail, and that they 
could therefore not believe the British would make war 


against Upper Burma, it declared the King of Burma 
ready to grant all that was demanded in the ultimatum, 
desired the cessation of hostilities, and offered to enter 
into a treaty. Under the instructions upon which he 
was acting, General Prendergast could only reply that no 
armistice could be granted, but that if King Thibaw 
surrendered himself, his army, and his capital, and if the 
European residents in Mandalay were all found unin- 
jured in life and property, the King's life would be spared 
and his family respected. A reply to this was demanded 
before 4 a.m. on the following morning. Meanwhile, the 
fleet continued to advance, and was anchored for the 
night off the village of Kyauktalon, about seven miles 
below Ava. 

As no answer was forthcoming, the fleet moved on at 
daylight; and orders, with plans attached, were issued 
for the attack on Ava. About half-past ten o'clock, 
when the proposed landing place was in view, the State 
barge was seen putting out with a Hag of truce. The 
same Envoys this time brought a telegram from the King 
conceding unconditionally all the demands made on the 
previous day, ordering the Ministers conducting the 
military operations at Sagaing and Ava not on any 
account to fire on the British, and directing them to keep 
all the troops quiet. 

At Ava fort some 8,000 troops, only about two-thirds 
of whom were armed with rifles or guns and the rest 
with spears, swords, and bills, were collected to oppose 
the advance of the British. General Prendergast insisted 
on this portion of the army laying down their arms, but 
the Commander of the forces, the Bohmu Kin Atwin 
Wun, who was senior in rank to either of the Envoys, 
refused to do so without a direct order from the King. 
Some delay occurred in finding and buoying an opening 
in the channel through the barrier, but by the time the 
British fleet had been placed by signal in the best 
positions in fighting order and the demand again pressed 
for the immediate surrender of the arms, the royal man- 
date had been telegraphed from Mandalay, eleven miles 
distant. Most unfortunately only some 550 of the rifles 
and muskets were then obtained ; for, as soon as the 



King's orders for the surrender became known, large 
numbers of the soldiers went off at once in all directions 
before British troops could be landed to ensure the 
disarmament of the whole force. The forts at Sagaing 
and Thambayadaing on the right bank of the river 
above Ava, likewise surrendered without a blow and 
were disarmed, though here again only about 400 
muskets were collected. From Ava fort 28 guns were 
carried off as trophies ; while 32 were destroyed at 
Sagaing, and 14 at Thambayddaing in dismantling the 
forts and river bank batteries. With the exception of 
three transports left with the troops ordered to land and 
complete the disarmament of the forts and batteries, the 
fleet moved on to Mandalay, and arrived there at 10 
o'clock on the morning of 28th November, 1885. 
Crowds of Burmese watched the arrival of the force 
from the banks, and appeared only too pleased to obey 
the royal mandate that had been issued prohibiting any 
opposition to the landing. Information was at once 
obtained that the King had been in the palace up to 
nine o'clock in the morning, and that the city was quiet. 

At eleven o'clock the arrival of the British force was 
notified to the Prime Minister and intimation given that, 
in accordance with the terms of the previous day's com- 
munication received at Ava, the immediate surrender of 
the capital and the King was expected. He was further 
informed that, unless a reply was received by noon, the 
troops would land and be employed as circumstances 
might demand. As it was not until after midday that 
the Kinwun Mingyi's reply was received, to the effect 
that he would be on board the Doowoon to consult with 
General Prendergast and Colonel Sladen, the troops were 
landed at 1.30 p.m., all regiments being ordered to take 
their colours and bands. 

The royal city of Mandalay is situated about three to 
four miles to the east of the Irrawaddy, with which there 
is connexion through the outer town along four main 
roads (still named A, B, C, and D roads) running due 
east from the river. The first brigade, under General 
Foord, marched by A road, and secured the southern 
and eastern gates of the city. The third brigade, under 



General Norman, marched along C road, and secured 
the western and northern city gates and the west and 
north gates of the palace enclosure. The second brigade, 
under General White, accompanied by Colonel Sladen, 
proceeded by C road, entered the city by the south gate, 
and secured the south and east gates of the palace en- 
closure. At the five main gates of the city, from which 
bridges led over the broad moat surrounding the city 
wall, the guards were disarmed and allowed to go to 
their homes, being replaced by British and native soldiers. 
As the troops marched through the western suburbs the 
population thronged the roads, gazing in quiet amazement, 
as if looking on at some ceremonial festival. 

Knowing the road. Colonel Sladen, who had been 
selected as political officer on the strength of his having 
long since been British Resident in Mandalay, rode with 
guides ahead of the troops in the hope of meeting the 
Prime Minister. Hearing that the Kinwun Mingyi had 
taken another route. Colonel Sladen merely sent a 
mounted scout to tell him to come as quickly as possible 
to the southern city gate. Without waiting for the 
Prime Minister, Colonel Sladen entered the southern 
city gate at 3 p.m., and proceeded, without interference 
or obstruction, through the city to the eastern or main 
entrance of the stockaded palace enclosure, accompanied 
only by Mr. Nicholas, his clerk and interpreter, and 
Commander Morgan, of one of the Irrawaddy Flotilla 
Company's steamers, who was well acquainted with the 
interior of the city and the palace. When they had 
waited here for a few minutes, the Kinwun Mingyi was 
descried coming in full haste on an elephant. After a 
formal greeting, he asked Colonel Sladen to accompany 
him alone into the palace enclosure, and not on any ac- 
count to let the troops enter. Leaving a note for 
General Prendergast, asking that the troops should not 
be ordered to enter before again hearing from him, 
Colonel Sladen entered the HhUdaw, or Great Council 
Chamber, and was shortly afterwards received by King 
Thibaw in the Hall of Audience, as if at an ordinary 
public reception. Queen Supayalat, who had been 
watching the approach of the troops from a lofty wooden 



outlook tower, at the south-east corner of the palace 
buildings, and the Queen-mother (Dowager Queen Sin- 
pyumashin) were present, while the usual palace guards 
were in attendance. With very little preamble the King 
surrendered himself and his kingdom ; but he asked to 
be granted a day or two for preparation in place of 
being taken away suddenly, and he proposed meanwhile 
to leave the palace and go into a summer-house in the 
royal garden within the enclosure. In reply he was 
informed that General Prendergast was in supreme com- 
mand to carry out the orders of the Government of 
India, but that he would not be interfered with in his 
palace that night, nor would the immediate palace pre- 
cincts be interfered with ; and it was arranged that the 
King should now consider himself a prisoner, and sur- 
render himself formally to General Prendergast on the 
following day. Thibaw having agreed to this, and the 
Ministers guaranteeing to deliver him safely next morn- 
ing or pay the penalty with their lives, Colonel Sladen, 
about 5 p.m., returned to the eastern gate of the outer 
palace enclosure and communicated the news of the 
King's unconditional surrender to General Prendergast, 
and his intention to surrender himself personally and 
formally on the following day. The Hampshire Regi- 
ment, the ist Madras Pioneers, and the Hazara Moun- 
tain Battery, which had all come provided with three 
days' provisions, cooking utensils, bakery, slaughter- 
house establishment, and entrenching equipment, were 
left under the command of Brigadier-General White to 
guard the palace for the night, being ordered to enter 
and occupy the outer enclosure as far as the Hlutdaw 
and the royal Red Gate, or main entrance to the inner 
palace. The rest of the troops returned to the transports 
in the evening. 

So far everything had gone well; but an inconceivably 
weak permission was now accorded, which led to an 
enormous amount of looting. At the instance of Colonel 
Sladen and the Ministers, who requested that palace 
women should be allowed exit and entrance through 
the western gate of the palace enclosure leading to the 
Queen's apartments. General Prendergast, against his 



first and better judgement, ordered that women were to 
be allowed to go in and out of the west gate of the 
palace. It was known that King Thibaw, in place of 
carrying out his bombast as to heading his army and 
effacing the British, had made arrangements for flight. 
Fifty elephants, with trusty friends, were waiting for 
him at Shwemaga, twelve miles north of Mandalay, 
to convey him to Shwebo (M6ks6bo), the birthplace and 
the burialplace of Alaung Paya, the illustrious founder 
of the royal family, Moksobo being the dynastic strong- 
hold of their race. It was probably only the con- 
dition of Queen Supaydlat, then approaching a confine- 
ment, that had hindered him from fleeing on the previous 
day. Aware of this. General Prendergast pointed out 
the danger which existed of the King passing out in the 
disguise of a woman, when one of the Ministers calmly 
proposed that the sentries should make personal ex- 
amination of each individual passing in or out. In a 
weak moment, however. General Prendergast gave the 
required consent. The result was that, out of the 300 
female attendants in the royal apartments, only seventeen 
remained faithful until the next morning, while crowds 
of common women from the city poured in and out all 
night through, looting from the royal apartments every 
valuable thing of small size they could lay hands on. 
How such a proposal from the Burmese Minister could 
have been supported by Colonel Sladen and sanctioned 
by General Prendergast it is impossible to understand. 
It was a blunder, and was subsequently admitted to 
have been one. 

Almost entirely abandoned by their attendants, — for 
most of the guards of the previous evening had withdrawn, 
as well as most of the maids of honour, — and seeing 
the looting carried on by the female scum of the city, 
the King and the Queens fell into a state of panic. Early 
on the 29th Colonel Sladen, having passed the night in 
the Hlutdaw, received a message from the Taingda 
Mingyi, who had remained with a strong guard inside 
the palace in charge of Thibaw. The Mingyi had 
himself come to say the King was in a state of panic, 
and fancied that soldiers would break into the palace and 



kill him. Proceeding into the palace, Colonel Sladen 
found the King, Queens, and Queen-mother almost un- 
attended, while women of low class were streaming in 
through all the western portions of the palace. Whilst 
Colonel Sladen accompanied the Queens and their Queen- 
mother to see what was going on in their private apart- 
ments, the King collected together a large quantity of 
gold and jewelled vessels used on State occasions. For 
their protection Colonel Sladen went to the palace gate 
and called an officer and twenty-five men of the Hamp- 
shire Regiment, who were dropped as sentries as each 
of the several royal apartments was passed through. 
Whilst this was taking place. King Thibaw, his two 
Queens and their mother (Dowager-Queen Sinpyuma- 
shin) retired to a small summer-house at the edge of 
the royal gardens. A cordon of sentries was placed 
round this little building, and the King remained a 
prisoner here till his formal surrender in the course of 
the afternoon. Abandoned by all his Ministers, and de- 
serted by most of the personal attendants and servants 
of the palace, the King complained bitterly. 

At a quarter-past ten o'clock on the morning of 
29th November, 1885, Major-General Prendergast, at- 
tended by his personal escort of an officer, ten mounted 
infantry and four orderlies, and accompanied by Brigadier- 
General Norman commanding a brigade composed of the 
Mounted Corps, theQ-ist (Cinque Ports) Royal Artillery, 
the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the 23rd Madras In- 
fantry, proceeded to the eastern or royal gate on the 
far side of the city, and marched through the latter to the 
royal Red Gate or main entrance of the inner palace 
enclosure, where he arrived at one o'clock. The four 
Mingyi, or principal Ministers of the Great State Council, 
were sent for, and accompanied the General, his staff 
and Colonel Sladen to an interview with the King. 

Headed by the Taingda Mingyi, who, though not 
the Prime Minister, had been placed in charge of the 
King on the previous evening, the procession wended 
its way through the south-east corner of the palace 
buildings, past the Hall of Audience, by the Queen's 
watch-tower and through passages in the palace towards 



the little summer-house in the garden, near the south- 
western corner of the royal apartments. Here the King 
was found seated with his two Queens (Supayalat and 
Supayagale) and the Dowager Queen Sinpyumashin, and 
gave himself up to General Prendergast. The King was 
told he would have to leave at once and go on board 
a steamer. He begged for delay, which could not be 
granted ; and preparations were made for immediate 
departure. As soon as these had been completed, the 
dethroned King walked with his two Queens and the 
Queen-mother, the latter heading the procession, through 
the palace buildings, down the stairs in front of the Hall 
of Audience, through the royal Red Gate, and past the 
HhUdaw to the main road outside the palace enclosure. 
From the steps of the palace to the main gate of the 
outer stockade the cortege passed through double files 
of the Hampshire Regiment, and out on to the roadway. 
Here two Burmese carriages, or box-like two-wheeled 
carts, drawn by bullocks, had been provided for the King 
and his suite, while the remainder of his very scanty 
following, consisting of only a few female attendants, 
either walked or were carried in doolies. This was the 
first occasion on which King Thibaw had ever been out- 
side of his palace since, more than seven years before, 
he had been declared heir apparent by the palace intrigue 
and coup d'etat of his mother-in-law, Sinpyumashin. 

At the main gate of the outer palace enclosure 
Brigadier-General Norman received the King and es- 
corted him to the river. The procession consisted of 
the 23rd Madras Infantry, leading, the 9-ist (Cinque 
Ports) Royal Artillery, then the King and suite, while 
the Royal Welsh Fusiliers closed the rear. A move 
was made at half-past three o'clock, eight white or royal 
umbrellas being held over the King and the Queens, in 
place of the nine to which he had been entitled whilst 
King of Ava. This still exceeded by one, however, the 
number permissible to any of the reigning Sawbwa or 
feudatory Princes of the Shan States. At first the 
number of Burmese onlookers was small, and no de- 
monstration was made. As darkness came on and 
the river was approached, the crowds along the road- 



sides and at the corners of cross-roads became very 
large. Here and there the waiHngs of women were 
to be heard, and the crowd, in their anxiety to see the 
royal prisoners, showed slight signs of impatience. No- 
thing amounting to a demonstration was made, and 
there was no attempt at a rescue. At a quarter-past 
six o'clock the King and his retinue were safely placed 
on board the steamer Thooreah (" the Sun "), the 
river bank being lined with two companies of the 
Liverpool Regiment and the Naval Brigade. On re- 
ceiving its royal freight the Thooreah put out into mid- 
stream, and left for Rangoon the following morning. 
The escort for the voyage consisted of two companies 
of the Liverpool Regiment under Colonel Le Mesurier. 
The Kinwun Mingyi, the Prime Minister, other two 
Ministers of State, and three Privy Councillors, were de- 
ported to Rangoon along with the King ; but not one of 
them all was willing to accompany his royal master 
into exile. Without again putting foot on the soil of 
Burma, Thibaw was transferred, with his two Queens, to 
an ocean steamer at Rangoon on loth December, and 
taken vid Madras to Ratnagiri fort on the Bombay 
coast, where he still remains a prisoner of State. The 
Dowager Queen was sent to Tavoy, in Lower Burma. 

On the evening of 29th November the city and the 
suburbs were much disturbed. The city, that is to say, 
the portion of Mandalay lying within the moat and 
walls, consisted of about eighteen to twenty thousand 
houses, containing a population estimated at from ninety 
to a hundred thousand souls; while about as many were 
to be found in the suburbs, situated chiefly between the 
city and the river on the west. Towards sundown 
Brigadier-General Foord marched in command of the 
2 1 St and 25th Madras Infantry from the transports to 
the city for the purpose of holding the five gates facing 
the bridges over the moat. Four companies were placed 
on each of the four sides of the city walls, the guard- 
houses were occupied, and strong patrols were constantly 
sent out during the night through the city and suburbs. 
Frequent shots were heard in all directions, but there 
was nothing like any general rising. On entering the 



south gate of the city, about 9 p.m., the 21st Madras 
Infantry were fired on, and returned the fire with section 
volleys. The French and Italian consulates and the 
neighbouring residences of Europeans, near the south- 
west of the city, were protected by a company of native 
troops. Besides the above precautions, the 12th Madras 
Infantry, under Colonel Rowlandson, posted guards and 
patrolled all night between B and C roads for the pro- 
tection of the suburbs. That night a celebrated diamond 
was stolen by the ex- King's troops from the forehead of 
the great image of Gaudama in the Atumashi, or 
" Incomparable " Pagoda, situated to the north-east of 
the city at some distance beyond the British picquets : 
while another large diamond and a valuable golden be- 
jewelled necklace were also stolen from the Paydgyi, the 
" Great " or Arakan Pagoda, between two and three 
miles south-west of the city. 

Next day, on 30th November, additional precautions 
were taken for preserving order. The city and the 
suburbs were patrolled day and night, and all men found 
carrying arms were taken and delivered to the Provost 
Marshal, whose quarters were at the southern city gate. 
Orders were issued for observance in the case of in- 
cendiary fires, and a committee was appointed to take 
over and secure all property found in the palace. That 
night the news of the almost bloodless victory was known 
in London, and the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, received the 
congratulations of Her Majesty and Her Majesty's 
Government for the success with which the immediate 
objects of the military expedition had been attained. 

On 1st December a proclamation was issued notifying 
King Thibaw's surrender, dethronement, and deporta- 
tion, and intimating that, until the will of Her Majesty 
the Queen- Empress was known, the civil and military 
administration of the country was vested in General 
Prendergast, who desired to carry on the Government 
with the aid of such of the Ministers, Governors, and 
other officers of State at present in office as agreed to 
remain and perform loyal service to the British Govern- 
ment. This provisional Hlutdaw, or Council of State, 
included two Mingyi or Ministers of State, four Aiwin- 



wun or Privy Councillors, and seven Wundauk or Under 
Secretaries. Special notification was made that the 
Pongyi or religious body would be protected, and allowed 
to carry on their religious duties unhindered, and that 
all religious buildings and their precincts would be pre- 
served, while Buddhism would remain the national 
religion, and would be respected. Provided they re- 
mained quiet and peaceable, all were to remain un- 
molested ; and all were to be permitted to engage in 
their national sports and to follow the customs of the 
country. The Governors of districts ( Wundauk, Wmi), 
judges [Nakdn), town magistrates {Myook), village 
headmen (Tkugyi), and the officers {Bo, Sitke), perform- 
ing miscellaneous military-police duties, were provision- 
ally and temporarily retained on condition that they 
should faithfully discharge their duties under the orders 
of the British civil officers, and should do their utmost to 
suppress crime, allay public anxiety, and pacify the 
towns and villages under their charge. Dacoits, robbers, 
and vagrants were to be arrested and sent to the British 
civil officer. The administration of the country being 
thus temporarily vested in the Hlutdaw or State Council 
of Burmese Ministers and officials, under the presidency 
of Colonel Sladen and under the orders and control of 
General Prendergast, their first act was to proclaim a 
general disarmament of the civil population. None 
except members of the Council and its staff were allowed 
to possess other arms than the common Da or bill, in 
ordinary use for all domestic, agricultural, and forest 
purposes, unless they received special passes. The 
inhabitants of Mandalay and its suburbs were called 
upon to deliver up at once, at any one of the twelve 
gates of the city, or of the four gates of the palace 
enclosure, or at one or other of the several criminal 
courts or guard-houses, any muskets, swords, spears, and 
the like in their possession. Any one found disobeying 
this order and retaining arms in his possession was to 
be seized, and would be liable to be shot. Many arms 
were given up ; but nothing like all of them. Encamp- 
ments of British troops were formed round the city, and 
guards were placed around the gun and powder factories 

97 H 


and the royal workshops. In the gun and rifle factories 
much valuable machinery of Swiss manufacture was found, 
and ten submarine mines in course of construction. The 
night passed quietly in the city, and tranquillity appeared 
to be established. A number of robbers were caught 
red-handed and made over to the Provost-Marshal, some 
being shot and others flogged. 

Being interviewed by Colonel Sladen on 3rd Decem- 
ber, the Thdthandbaing or Buddhist Archbishop promised 
to assist the British authority, and sent out proclamations 
to all the Pongyi or heads of monasteries throughout the 
country enjoining them to support all notifications coming 
from the Hlutdaw under General Prendergast's orders. 

On 7th December five Princes and two Princesses, 
children of the Mindat Prince — who, being the heir 
apparent nominated to succeed his brother King Mindon 
on the throne, was assassinated when the Myingun 
Prince attempted to kill his father also and seize the 
throne in 1866 — were, at their own request and that of 
the Hlutdaw, deported to Rangoon, after being relieved 
from their imprisonment endured throughout the whole 
of Thibaw's reign. On the 8th the royal albino elephant, 
figuring in all royal proclamations as a true Sadddn 
or white elephant of miraculous powers, died in the 
palace of colic, and was dragged by parties of the 
Hampshire Regiment, the Hazara Mountain Battery, and 
transport coolies out of the palace and through the city 
to the royal burial-ground north of C road, where a grave 
had been prepared for it by the Burmese. The actual and 
very real importance of this death, and of the ignominious 
treatment of the carcase, can only be appreciated when 
the childish superstition of the Burmese, individually and 
nationally, is understood. 

On loth December the headquarters of the Burma field 
force were established in the palace, and on the 15th Mr. 
Bernard, Chief Commissioner of British Burma, arrived 
with a small staff from Rangoon in order to concert 
administrative measures till the final policy of the British 
Government could be declared. Throughout the whole 
of this month armed parties were scouring the country 
round about Mandalay in search of Thibaw's disbanded 



soldiery and of men in possession of arms ; movable 
columns were operating against the bands of dacoits, often 
large in number, formed of the runaway royal troops, 
while the garrisons left at Minhla, Pagan, Myingyan, Ava, 
and Sagaing were all busily engaged in operating against 
the dacoits infesting every district, and in endeavouring 
to assist the civil officers left at the three first- named 
places in introducing something like decent adminis- 

The military situation remained unchanged. There 
was no comprehensively organized armed resistance to 
authority ; but bands of dacoits overran the country in 
all directions, and every possible opportunity was taken 
to harass them and to destroy or capture them. The 
telegraph line to the frontier was constantly being inter- 
rupted, and the wires cut again as soon as repaired. No 
communication had yet been established with Bhamo, as 
British authority was only recognized as far as gunboats 
had gone up the river, that is, for fifty miles north of Man- 
dalay. Accordingly, on 19th December, General Pren- 
dergast went with a strong force up the river to Bhamo, 
a detachment from which occupied Shwebo. The 
Governor of Shwebo sent in his second and third sons in 
token of submission, and also a pretender to the throne 
whom he had captured. Various other local authorities 
gave in their adherence ; but the Sawbwa of Wuntho, 
an influential Shan chief, refused to recognize the British 
authority, and had to be dealt with later on. The 
notorious Taingda Mingy i, who was responsible for 
much of the misgovernment during Thibaw's reign, and 
was known to be very hostile to the British, was also 
transferred temporarily to India. He died in Rangoon 
on 31st May, 1896. 

On 19th December an expedition was also sent up 
the Chindwin river, whence news had been received 
of the murder of three of the Bombay-Burma Cor- 
poration's European employes, in order to join hands 
with another column marching down from Manipur. 
On General Prendergast's arrival at Bhamo on 28th 
December he found the town almost deserted ; but 
the people, on being reassured, soon returned to 



their houses. The country along the river banks was 
quiet, and the people generally expressed pleasure at 
the advent of the British. The Governor of Bhamo 
made a ready submission, and requested that his troops 
should be disarmed and disbanded. Although an im- 
portant emporium of trade with Yunnan, Bhamo was only 
a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants — a motley mixture 
of Burmese, Chinese, Shan and Kachin. Situated on 
the left bank of the Irrawaddy, just below where this 
receives the Taiping river from the east, its northern, 
eastern and southern sides were protected by a stockade 
of teak posts about fourteen or fifteen feet in height. No 
Chinese troops were found in the vicinity, and there was 
no reason to anticipate unfriendly operations on the part of 
the Chinese. Only the usual small garrison was stationed 
at Momein, beyond the frontier. After being a week 
at Bhamo General Prendergast returned to Mandalay, 
leaving Brigadier- General Norman behind in charge of 
a strong force, and also a civil officer to organize adminis- 
tration, with the support of the military. 

The lawlessness and disorder prevailing in Upper 
Burma had meanwhile communicated itself partially to 
Lower Burma. In the Shwegyin district the Mayan 
Chaung Pongyi, a Shan priest, preferring to act under 
orders from Thibaw, raised a following of about 500 
men. Troops from Rangoon and Toungoo managed to 
scatter this little army, but it was long before the smaller 
bands thus formed were completely suppressed and the 
priest captured. On Christmas day Colonel Street, 
Commissioner of Pegu, with a small body of sepoys and 
police, had a pitched battle with a body of about 150 
men marching on Pegu from the south with flags and 
golden umbrellas. Twenty of them were left dead on 
the field. But for this timely check the flam.e of in- 
surrection would have spread like wildfire throughout 
the whole of Lower Burma. As it was, the early months 
of 1886 brought with them, in sympathy with the excited 
condition of Upper Burma, a vast increase beyond the 
usual tales of dacoities committed throughout the southern 

On ist January, 1886, a proclamation was issued by 



Lord Dufferin that the territories formerly governed by 
King Thibaw had become part of the British dominions, 
and would, during Her Majesty's pleasure, be administered 
by such officers as the Viceroy might from time to time 
appoint.^ The immediate objects of General Prender- 
gast's expedition had thus been accomplished thoroughly 
and completely, and almost bloodlessly. Even up to the 
23rd of February, 1886, the number of those who died 
on the field, or from their wounds, amounted to only 
four British officers, seven British privates, and ten native 
soldiers. But it was well known that this was merely the 
preliminary towards the serious work of pacification 
which had now to be faced and carried through. 

Though nothing like so large in area or in population, 
and though much more accessible, the work of pacifying 
the province of Pegu, conquered in 1852-53, continued 
for about eight years before the newly acquired territory 
entered fairly on the path of peace and contentment. 
Though carried out with the strong support of a very 
large military force of local levies, and of gunboats which 
could operate throughout the network of tidal streams 
forming the delta of the Irrawaddy, and with a vigour 
which exposed Sir Arthur Phayre to charges of excessive 
measures brought against him in Parliament, yet at the 
end of the first year of the occupation large districts were 
still in the hands of insurgents and robber bands. At 
the end of the second year great armed bands were still 
at large, and vast tracts remained into which British 
influence had not yet extended. During the third and 
the following years parts of the new territory were still 
much disturbed, and it was not until 1861 that the paci- 
fication could be considered effected. But for the Indian 

^ This proclamation, dated ist January, 1886, is probably unique in 
its terseness among historical documents referring to the annexation of 
large territories. It was as follows : — 

" By Command of the Queen-Empress it is hereby notified that the 
territories governed by King Theebaw will no longer be under his rule, 
but have become part of Her Majesty's dominions, and will during Her 
Majesty's pleasure be administered by such officers as the Viceroy and 
Governor-General of India may from time to time appoint. 

"(Signed) Dufferin." 


Mutiny, in 1857, the work of pacification would no doubt 
have been much more rapidly effected. 

The new territory that was now, on ist January, 1886, 
incorporated into the British dominions had an area 
of about 120,000 miles, and a population estimated at 
about three and a half millions. A considerable portion 
of this vast expanse was inpenetrable jungle of tree- forest 
or scrub, and even in the least sparsely populated districts 
there were no proper roads or bridges. During the 
rainy season the difficulties of communication were much 
increased by the sudden rise of the rivers, and of the 
numerous streams intersecting the country in all directions. 
Large tracts of country often remained under water for 
weeks at a time. Though not a warlike race, the 
Burmese had a traditional and hereditary love of desul- 
tory fighting, raiding, gang robbery, and the like ; and 
their inordinate national vanity preserved vivid recollec- 
tions of the time when they were a conquering race, 
driving the Shan, Kachin, and Assamese into the hills. 
Villages had long-standing feuds with other villages, and 
the gangs of robbers mixed up In these were recruited 
from time to time by the young bloods from the villages 
concerned. After a time such young men went back to 
their usual occupations ; but those who liked the hard, 
lawless life under a dacolt Bo could easily take to it 
permanently as partisans of one or other of the profes- 
sional bandits who were usually in open revolt against 
the sovereign. This had been the case under all the 
Burmese kings, and King Thibaw had proved himself to 
be below the average of Burmese sovereigns in adminis- 
trative capacity. One of the most notorious and formid- 
able of these bandit chiefs. Bo Shwe, had for about twelve 
or thirteen years back been defying with impunity the 
authorities of Mandalay and levying blackmail from the 
southern districts. 

These various difficulties arising from the nature of 
the country, the character of the people, and the existing 
political organization, were rather Increased than lessened 
by the suddenness of Thibaw's overthrow. When the 
plan of campaign, matured years before in Simla, had 
been almost bloodlessly carried through in a fortnight, 



it was found that the raw and undiscipHned levies hastily 
called out to oppose our advance had dissolved and 
spread themselves over the country in small lawless 
bands. The very ease with which Mandalay was taken 
and the King was deposed tended greatly to retard the 
work of permanent pacification. Had there been any- 
thing like a national army, its overthrow might have 
cost much bloodshed at the outset ; but, once its opposi- 
tion had been overcome, this would have swept away 
the main difficulties and left a free stage for the intro- 
duction of a better organized system of administration, 
so that troops, treasure, and time would have been saved 
in the long run. 

Aware of these peculiar difficulties, conscious of the 
state of anarchy which existed under Thibaw's rule, and 
knowing the experiences in Pegu a generation before, 
the Government of India quite understood the gravity 
of the situation as well as the magnitude of the task 
before them in undertaking the pacification of the new 
territories. It was felt that the necessary measures 
towards this end could only be satisfactorily concerted 
on the spot in communication with those having local 
knowledge and experience ; hence the Viceroy and the 
Commander-in-Chief (Sir Frederick Roberts, V.C.) took 
the earliest opportunity of proceeding to Burma in order 
to draw up schemes for the future administration of the 
country and for the further military operations still 
requisite before a stable form of Government could be 

Until future measures could thus be decided on British 
civil officers, supported by troops, were in command of 
each of the five districts, Mandalay, Myingyan, Pagdn, 
Minhla, and Ningyan, and were working through the 
Burmese District Governors and headmen. The civil 
and ordinary criminal jurisdiction was in the hands of 
these civil officers, except where troops were stationed 
or operating, when, the country being still under military 
occupation, the Provost- Marshal's officers exercised some 
jurisdiction. Outside of these five districts the rest of 
the country was nominally governed by the Hhitdaw or 
State Council, presided over by Colonel Sladen ; but 



for various reasons the orders and influence of this Hlut 
carried little weight into the interior of these central 
and northern districts. In some places the ordinary local 
officials succeeded in enforcing partial order, but the 
country at large was in a state of anarchy and dis- 
organization. At Ava, Sagaing, Shwebo, Tagaung, 
Myadaung, and Bhamo, on the Irrawaddy, and at some 
points on the Chindwin river, military detachments were 
stationed with civil officers in attendance, so that the 
whole of the districts which had been actually ruled by 
Thibaw were held in military occupation. 

Though Upper Burma was now annexed to the 
British dominions, it had not yet been incorporated with 
British India ; hence Indian codes did not apply. The 
civil officers were instructed, however, to proceed in 
criminal cases on the lines of the Indian codes, except 
that dacoity or gang robbery might be punishable with 
death, that flogging was to be administered in place of 
imprisonment on petty offenders physically fit for receiv- 
ing such punishment, and that no appeal lay from 
criminal sentences. Rebels in arms captured on the 
field were liable to be shot, but the death penalty was 
not to be enforced by civil officers otherwise than after 


Chapter V 


WHEN Lord Dufferin and Sir Frederick Roberts 
were in Mandalay, from 12th to 19th February, 
1886, the importance of the matters requiring considera- 
tion was only equalled by the difficulties connected with 
them. During the seven years of Thibaw's weak and 
incompetent rule dacoity had been permitted to over- 
spread the country ; while the melting away of the 
Burmese army on the British approach both strengthened 
the dacoit gangs already in existence, and formed the 
nuclei of fresh gangs of armed men in many cases 
engaging in organized opposition to the new Govern- 
ment. The main problems the Viceroy had to consider 
first of all were whether the new dominions should form 
a protected State under the Indian Government, or be 
annexed outright and brought directly under the British 
administration, and how good government could most 
effectively and cheaply be introduced ; while the Com- 
mander-in-Chief had to formulate the plan of military 
operations, still necessary under any circumstances, and 
on a largely increased scale, for the pacification of the 
country in the event of annexation outright being 
decided on. 

Lord Dufferin's personal desire was that Upper 
Burma should be converted into a protected or "buffer" 
State like Afghanistan, the ruling Prince being left 
perfectly independent in matters of internal administra-. 
tion, while the Government of India would have exercised 
the right of supervising all external relations. But, on 
closer consideration after hearing the opinions of the 
civil and military authorities in Burma, he found the 
country so disorganized, the State Council and Ministry 



so discredited and lacking in influence, and the chance 
of finding suitable candidates for the throne among the 
Princes of the royal line so slight as to admit of no 
possible rational alternative to direct administration of 
the country by the Government of India. No Prince 
who might be placed on the throne would have been 
able, without great assistance from British troops, to 
maintain his authority with any prospect of success 
against the numerous rivals who would be sure to rise 
up against him. Within a short time of Thibaw's down- 
fall there were five such Princes, besides other pretenders 
to the throne, wandering about the jungles with small 
parties of followers. To keep on the throne a puppet 
ruler would have landed the Government of India in 
responsibilities almost as great as actual administration, 
while the intrigues, procrastinations, and slights of a 
Burmese ruler would probably soon again have become 
insupportable. It would have been beyond reasonable 
hope to secure a stable form of Burmese Government, 
which would gradually establish and maintain tran- 
quillity and fairly good administration, and which would 
at the same time effectually exclude from the upper 
valley of the Irrawaddy undesirable foreign influences 
likely to produce at some future date the gravest political 
consequences. The Nyaungyan Prince had recently 
died, and his younger brother, the Nyaungok, still 
under British surveillance in Bengal, was disobedient 
to orders, unpopular in Burma, and otherwise unsatis- 
factory. The Myingun Prince who fled in 1866 to a 
British asylum after attempting his father's life and 
killing the heir apparent, his uncle, and then, about the 
time of Thibaw's accession in 1878, had escaped to 
Pondicherry, whence he tried to carry on intrigues, 
might perhaps, if put on the throne, have held his own 
by killing off his rivals ; but he would have been almost 
certain to have given trouble by falling into the hands 
of foreign adventurers and concessionaries. Hence 
Lord Dufferin decided to recommend the pure and 
simple incorporation of Upper Burma with the Indian 
Empire, and the British Government at once (i6th 
February, 1886), acquiesced in the recommendation and 



authorized him to proceed with the direct administration 
of the country. 

The attempt to restore order and to govern through 
the Hlutdaw, or Council of State, was proving a failure. 
Even the best of the Ministers, who had so ignominiously 
failed to manage the country efficiently under King 
Thibaw, had little influence, and could not be relied on 
to use that little, under the new circumstances in which 
they were called upon to act. It was therefore deter- 
mined to abolish the Hlutdaw, and to make use of only 
a selected few of the Ministers merely as a consultative 
body to be associated with the Chief Commissioner, in 
order that reference might be made to them, as occasion 
might arise, on points connected with the late administra- 
tion. This was rather a matter of policy, to attach the 
more influential members of the late Ministry to the new 
Government, and to show consideration to the more 
deserving of the ex-King's servants, than an actual need 
for administrative assistance. Two of the members of the 
State Council, the Kinwun Mingyi, or Prime Minister, 
and the Taunggwin Mingyi, two of the Privy Councillors, 
the Pin Atwinwun, and the Shwedaik Atwinwun, and 
one Assistant Minister, the Tabayin Wundauk, were thus 
retained on salaries varying from rupees 500 to 1,000 
per mensem (^^400 to ^800 a year) ; while small pensions 
were bestowed on some of the other ex- Ministers. 

It was first of all found necessary to substitute for the 
existing arbitrary powers of the Viceroy an order in 
Council under anno 33 Vict. cap. 3, sec. i, extending 
that section to the whole of Upper Burma except the 
Shan States. It thus became a scheduled district 
removed from the operation of the statute law applying 
to the rest of the Indian Empire. This enabled the 
local administration of Burma to frame simple Regulations 
with the approval of the Government of India, suitable 
to cope with the actual state of affairs. These Regula- 
tions differed from Acts in being issued by the Governor- 
General In Council, Instead of being passed by the 
Legislative Council of the Government of India; but In 
their effect there was no practical difference between the 
two. Mr. Bernard, Chief Commissioner of British Burma, 



was placed in charge of the whole of Burma, which was 
consolidated into a Chief Commissionership in Sep- 
tember, 1886; while Mr. Hodgkinson, one of the 
Commisioners, acted as his Assistant in charge of Lower 
Burma. Upper Burma was divided into fourteen 
districts, with British civil officers and Police Assistants 
in each. At first there were to be no divisional Com- 
missioners or sessions Judges ; and district officers were 
to work through indigenous local agencies, and according 
to local methods, in matters of revenue and civil justice. 
The village community system was thus retained as 
being thoroughly in accordanc°: with the customs of the 
country and least likely to be irksome or to disturb the 
people, before the stability of the new administration 
was felt and appreciated by the population at large. 
Under this new system room was also found for the 
best of the old Burmese officials. Many of these, far 
truer patriots than the princely pretenders and the 
brigand chiefs who carried fire and sword into all parts 
of the newly conquered territories, in pursuit of no 
definite policy and no political aim, rendered valuable 
services to the cause of peace, and too often had to pay 
for their loyalty with their lives. The Shan States were 
to be treated as feudatory or tributary States, without 
attempting to bring them under any direct administrative 

The Commander-in-Chief was at first inclined to 
recommend some reduction in the military force ; but 
after mature consideration had been given to the subject, 
it was decided to send back one Madras regiment to 
India, and to move down two Ghurka regiments from 
Assam for work in the hilly districts. 

The Upper and Lower Burma commands were united 
under General Prendergast, with headquarters at Ran- 
goon, while the headquarters of two brigades were 
located at Mandalay (General White) and Bhamo 
(General Norman). As troops had been drawn from all 
the three Presidencies of India, the military administra- 
tion of Burma was for the time being placed under the 
Commander-in-Chief On 31st March General Prender- 
gast vacated the command of the forces in Burma and 



the troops in Upper Burma were formed into a separate 
command under Brigadier- General White, who received 
the local rank of Major- General. 

That a prolonged struggle was anticipated is clear 
from Sir Frederick Roberts' recommendation that 
free passages from India to England should be given 
to the wives and families of all military officers detained 
on field service in Burma, and that large rewards should 
be paid to all officers and soldiers, European or native, 
who learned sufficient Burmese to pass easy examina- 
tions in the language. Nor were the wives of civil 
officers permitted to reside with their husbands during 
the most troublous period. 

Without attempting to dictate subordinate military 
arrangements from Calcutta and Simla, the Government 
of India urged the desirability of first thoroughly domin- 
ating the central area close to the main arteries of 
communication, and thence gradually extending adminis- 
tration and jurisdiction according to the means at 
disposal and the opportunities occurring. The despatch 
of spasmodic and disconnected expeditions into tracts 
which could not be at once permanently occupied and 
protected was deprecated. Such a method of procedure 
could only disquiet and compromise peaceable and well- 
disposed villages, because, if they showed themselves at 
all friendly to the military detachments visiting them, 
this only exposed them to subsequent ill-treatment and 
plunder at the hands of rebels and dacoits as soon as 
the British force had left. The difficulties and dangers 
to health unavoidable during the hot months of April 
and May were also humanely pointed out, and recom- 
mendations were made to move the troops about as little 
as possible during the hottest time of the year, and to 
locate them as healthily as possible during the approach- 
ing rainy season, even though this might for the moment 
retard the progress of operations. 

In accordance with these instructions, British authority 
was first confined to the tracts bordering the Irrawaddy, 
to the country around Mandalay and Bhamo, and to the 
southern frontier districts of Minhla and Ningyan. 
Military posts were distributed in different localities, and 



small movable columns were organized, capable of 
marching in whatever direction circumstances required. 
When in Mandalay, Sir Frederick Roberts laid down a 
minimum strength for each post and column, and the 
judiciousness of these arrangements was proved by the 
fact of no post being forced. Although there was no 
regular well-organized enemy in the field, and therefore 
no particular objective requiring the concentration of 
large masses of troops, yet the country was generally 
overrun with armed bands. Five scions of the royal 
line were pushing their claims to the throne in different 
localities. The Myinzaing Prince, a son of Mindon, 
held the Natteik pass into the Shan hills, and harried 
the plains lying to the south-east of Mandalay ; while 
a pretender calling himself the Kyimyin Prince was 
troubling the districts to the south of that, as far as the 
Toungoo frontier. At Chaungwa, in the Ava district, 
the Chaungwa Princes, Yan Naing and Yan Baing, 
whose father was massacred in 1879 by Thibaw, were 
endeavouring to assert themselves ; while Prince Maung 
Hmat Gyi, a son of the heir apparent killed in 1866, 
had a large following in the Shwebo and Yeii districts, 
north-east of Mandalay. Numerous dacoit leaders had 
become nominal supporters of these pretenders, plunder- 
ing villages and levying blackmail in their names. Some 
of the dacoit Bo even went the length of themselves 
becoming pretenders to the throne. Bo Shwe, who had 
been harrying the Minbu and Minhla districts for the 
last twelve or thirteen years, boldly proclaimed himself 
King of Minbu, and appointed a Governor of the river. 
The most influential of the other dacoit Bo at this time 
were Nga Hlau, who had for years harried the districts 
between the Irrawaddy and the Mu river, north-west of 
Mandalay, the Thondatin Thugyi, Maung Min Po, in 
the Pindali district, U Paung in Meiktila, and Budda 
Yaza in Ningyan. The Myinzaing Prince even offered 
a reward of 2,000 rupees for the head of Sir Charles 
Bernard, the Chief Commissioner, and threatened to burn 
the palace in Mandalay, which was being used for the 
public offices and the residences of the civil and military 
headquarters' staffs. 



Incendiarism had become rife. Early in April several 
fires occurred in the more crowded suburbs of Mandalay 
city, and other fires broke out in the city itself about the 
middle of the month, at which date the Burmese New 
Year happened to fall in 1886. About 800 houses 
within the city, and between 2,000 and 2,500 in the 
suburbs were thus destroyed, chiefly by some thirty to 
forty adherents of the Myingun Prince, who made an 
organized outbreak and rushed one of the town police 
stations. The citizens appeared to be demoralized for 
the moment, the shops and bazaars were closed, and 
business generally was at a standstill. PVom April 
onwards large bodies of armed men harassed the whole 
of the districts around the capital and all the principal 
towns, and before the close of the rainy season it had 
become very apparent that it was necessary to consider- 
ably strengthen the troops in Burma. Hardly a day 
passed without a skirmish taking place in some part of 
the country ; and the guerilla system of warfare adopted 
by them gave great advantages to the rebels and 

General White soon found, from the experiences 
around Mandalay, that mere visits from flying columns 
to different parts of the country were quite insufficient 
to maintain British supremacy, and that for the pacifica- 
tion of the country and the suppression of dacoity 
or other armed resistance, it was necessary to closely 
occupy the country by establishing strong military posts 
in each of the various districts of sufficient strength to 
maintain order in their immediate neighbourhood, and to 
afford contingents for flying columns to skirmish against 
rebel bands. It was only when they saw the troops, and 
felt they could rely on their protection, that villagers 
could be expected to give information or assistance 
against the rebel bands and dacoit gangs. It was only 
thus that military ascendancy and prestige could be 
secured, the main lines of communication by land and 
water protected, civil authority and administration estab- 
lished, and the population encouraged to render assist- 
ance. In addition to posts along the Irrawaddy, others 
were established along the route from Mandalay to Toun- 



goo. and from Toungoo across the hills to Thayetmyo ; 
and the central part of Upper Burma was thus enclosed 
in a roughly triangular series of strongholds forming bases 
from which the further military operations were under- 
taken. Near the eastern base line the construction of a 
railway was being pushed on from Toungoo to Mandalay, 
and with great success and rapidity under circumstances 
of unusual difficulty and danger. 

The expenditure on public works was intended to be 
limited at first to barracks, obligatory military roads, 
and telegraph repairs and construction ; but the great 
importance of continuing the Rangoon-Toungoo railway 
line to Mandalay was recognized and urged both on 
political and military grounds. The Secretary of State 
suggested that, in the meantime, it might be more 
advantageous to make good roads, passable at all 
seasons, between the various principal civil and mili- 
tary stations. The arguments placed before the 
Government of India by Sir Charles Bernard, Chief 
Commissioner of Burma, were, however, so convincing 
that sanction was given to commence construction in the 
autumn of 1886. It was successfully urged by him that 
a trunk road would be costly and unremunerative, that 
the expense of moving troops and supplies would be 
five times as great by road as by rail, while the time 
occupied would be ten times as long, and that, in short, 
the railway would be far more effectual in pacifying the 
country, in promoting trade, and in strengthening the 
position whether viewed from a military, a political, or 
an administrative standpoint. 

The position in Lower Burma had meanwhile become 
such as caused much uneasiness. Partly through the 
emissaries of the royal Princes pretending to the throne, 
and partly in sympathy with the lawless feeling preva- 
lent within the newly annexed territories, dacoity 
sprang up to an alarming degree throughout the older 
province. Troops had therefore also to be poured into 
Lower Burma, while the garrison in Upper Burma was 
being strengthened. In the summer of 1886 there were 
17,022 troops in Upper Burma, distributed in forty-three 
posts, and 7,162 in Lower Burma, occupying no less than 



forty-seven posts on the Sittang river, and the Irrawaddy 
with its delta. Everything resembling patriotic senti- 
ment in the Burmese had become united with the 
inherent strain of brutality and lawlessness running 
through the national character ; and this combination 
of innate forces found its expression in the bands of 
armed men infesting the jungles all over the new 
province. It was certainly not patriotism pure and 
simple, while it was equally certainly not merely dacoity 
in the true meaning of that word ; but it was armed resist- 
ance to British administration, and as such it had to be 
put down with a heavy hand. Lurking in jungle recesses 
almost impenetrable for regular troops, these armed 
bands were seldom to be met in the open field, though 
bold and sudden in ambushes and surprise attacks on 
military and police posts. As a matter of course they 
were entirely dependent on villagers for food and other 
contributions, their demands for which they enforced with 
such barbarities as burning and devastating villages, 
slaughtering headmen, crucifying or otherwise executing 
men suspected of giving information to the British, and 
inflicting disgusting tortures on other men and women. 

The enormous difficulties of contending against wide- 
spread revolt, rebellion, and crime of this sort can easily 
be imagined. It was necessary to attack the root of the 
evil by constantly harassing the armed bands so as to 
keep them in a continuous state of apprehension and of 
alarm, isolate them, cut them off from villages in which 
they had friends or relatives, and deprive them of their 
secret supporters. Experience showed that strong 
bodies of insurgents, numbering sometimes from 2,000 
to 4,000 men, could be assembled rapidly and secretly in 
neighbourhoods not protected by military posts. Pillag- 
ing and burning wherever they went, these bands of 
freebooters reserved the refinements of their cruelties 
for those who had given assistance or information against 
them. Unless in the immediate vicinity of British 
troops, the villagers were forced through terror into 
compromise with the dacoits. 

It had been at once recognized, however, that troops 
alone could not suffice for the work of pacification, but 

113 I 


that the special difficulties in Burma would be overcome 
rather by the vigorous administration of civil government 
and by the creation of an efficient police than by the 
employment of military detachments scattered over the 
face of the country. Reinforcements of troops were at 
any time obtainable from India, but the available reserve 
of efficient police was much more limited. As the 
Burmese character is averse to discipline, and as the old 
Burmese police were incapable of coping with the 
dacoits and rebel bands, no time was lost in issuing 
orders for enlisting, training, and sending over to Burma 
a laro-e body of police recruited from the warlike races 
of the Punjab and the North-Western Provinces of India. 
In addition to 2,000 volunteers from the Indian police, 
and to the ordinary native police force of Lower Burma, 
6,530 trained recruits were sent to Upper and Lower 
Burma during the rainy season of 1886; so that, with 
the 24,184 troops already in Burma, the total of troops 
and military police for service throughout the whole 
province rose to 32,720. 

The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, which had rendered 
such brilliant assistance in the advance on Mandalay, 
did even more for the country after the annexation than 
before. They put on express steamers, without cargo- 
flats, to run once a week between Rangoon and Manda- 
lay. They improved communication between Mandalay 
and Bhamo by running regular weekly steamers. They 
also instituted short services between Mandalay and 
important points up and down the river, and began to 
ply regularly on the Chindwin river. For these new 
lines the Company received no subsidy, though they 
obtained a large amount of Government work. Every 
steamer contained a small guard of troops or disciplined 
police for protection. A large flotilla of Government 
steamers had to be placed on the rivers to facilitate the 
movements of troops, to prevent the crossing of armed 
bands of rebels or dacoits, to keep down river piracy, 
and to patrol the rivers ; but the assistance received 
from the commercial flotilla was indispensable. 

For the civil administration of the district controlled 
by the military posts a code of provisional instructions 



was issued in March, 1886. This was drawn up in 
harmony with the spirit of the Indian codes, but at the 
same time gave due consideration to estabHshed Burmese 
habits and methods of procedure. On the whole these 
instructions worked well and smoothly, proving a great 
advance over the arbitrary method obtaining immediately 
after the annexation. The establishment of this form of 
just and simple administration, the gradual disarmament 
of the people, the opening up of communications, and 
the encouragement of trade were relied on, combined 
with the abundant evidences of armed strength, as being 
the shortest and the best way of attaining the eventual 
cessation of military operations and the pacification and 
settlement of Upper Burma. These measures involved a 
large expenditure on the newly-acquired territory, but it 
was borne in mind that the rich province of Pegu did 
not pay its expenses for the first eight or ten years after 
annexation. In August, 1886, a disaster occurred which 
tested the state of order to which the town of Mandalay 
had then been reduced under firm and judicious govern- 
ment. The earthwork embankment protecting the 
western suburbs burst from the pressure of a flood 
higher than had been known for sixty years past. Much 
destruction of property occurred, and some loss of life 
resulted. Food was at once provided for the absolutely 
destitute, and a regular system of relief distribution \yas 
organized. But the night on which the inundation 
occurred passed without the slightest disturbance. 

The troops under General White in Upper Burma 
during the summer of 1886 were divided into three 
brigades, having headquarters at Mandalay, Bhamo, and 
Ningyan (now called Pyinmana), near the Toungoo 
frontier. The garrison was, however, further augmented 
by three regiments of native cavalry, while nearly all the 
corps and batteries sent in October, 1885, were relieved in 
the autumn of 1886, and the command of future operations 
was given to Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Macpher- 
son, V.C., Commander-in-Chief of the Madras army, 
whose headquarters were to remain at Mandalay till the 
conclusion of the military operations. The truth of the 
matter is that the resistance encountered had proved far 



more widespread, and was likely to be much more con- 
tinuous and obstinate, than was originally anticipated, 
even although enormous difficulties had been estimated 
and prepared for. Wherever rebels mustered strong, if 
the local posts were not sufficient to operate against them, 
the necessity had hitherto been met by sending troops 
from whatever reserve could best spare them ; and this, 
of course, led to much unsymmetrical distribution. On 
the arrival of the reinforcements of three battalions, flying 
columns were formed on a larger scale to supplement the 
system of posts and form a stronger reserve in every 
district. To render these columns as mobile and swift as 
possible, a corps of mounted infantry was formed. Each 
district headquarters had a mounted company composed 
of twenty-five British and fifty native infantry, which 
could be attached to the flying columns. The special rein- 
forcements of cavalry were asked for, as this had proved 
a very effective branch of the force. The rebel Bo were 
always well mounted, and were usually the first to fly 
on the approach of British troops, while mere mounted 
infantry proved unable to overtake and capture them. 
But in a country where only ponies are bred, the cavalry 
horses seemed monsters to the superstitious people, while 
the long reach and the short shrift of the lance paralysed 
with fear the rebels in arms, as well as the general 

The opposition to the British administration which 
was being felt during the second half of 1886 was as 
nearly a national uprising as was possible among the 
Burmese. Of a population numbering about three 
rnillions, exclusive of the Shan States, more than seven- 
eighths were agriculturists, while rather more than half 
of the urban population was congregated in the city 
of Mandalay and its suburbs. Throughout the whole of 
the villages and hamlets on the plains held under military 
occupation there was probably hardly a household whence 
some male member had not issued to join one or other 
of the rebel gangs, which were being hunted down with 
all possible vigour. The bonds of relationship thus 
existing between rebels and villagers, and the fear of 
acts of revenge if information were given against dacoit 



leaders, raised up a sort of passive resistance on the part 
of the general population, which rendered it harder to 
effect the seizure of the leaders of rebellion and increased 
the difficulties of military operations in a country of itself 
offering physical obstacles of unusual difficulty. 

The reliefs and reinforcements for the Burma field 
force were carried out towards the end of the summer 
rains in 1886, and Sir Herbert Macpherson assumed the 
supreme command early in September. But before the 
cold weather operations for 1886-87 could well be said 
to have commenced, he died of malarious fever, near 
Prome, on 2nd October, 1886. In view of the large 
number of troops in Burma, the extended operations 
about to be undertaken, and the extreme gravity which 
the situation had now undisguisably assumed — for during 
the rainy season, when whole districts were rendered 
impassable by swollen streams, and the troops and officers 
suffered from ill-health, the rebels had made head 
against the British power — the Commander-in-Chief, Sir 
Frederick Roberts, was directed to transfer his head- 
quarters temporarily to Burma and assume command of 
the whole of the troops in the province. He arrived in 
Mandalay on 17th November, and remained there till 
1 2th February, 1887. 

The forces then amounted to about 32,000 troops 
and 8,500 military police, exclusive of the urban and 
rural native Burmese police, whose organization and 
discipline were being gradually improved. The Com- 
mander-in-Chief was assisted by two majors-general in 
command of divisions, and six brigadiers-general in com- 
mand of brigades. To facilitate the free movement of 
troops jungle clearings, each of 100 feet in width, were 
made from post to post, and in other convenient places. 

While measures were thus being concerted for putting 
down rebellion and dacoity with a strong hand, the 
necessity of directly and indirectly conciliating the people 
at large was not overlooked ; hence punitive measures, 
such as the burning of villages, harbouring or assisting 
rebels, were prohibited ; an amnesty was offered to all 
who should voluntarily submit within a certain time ; all 
imports and duties impeding the free course of trade 



were abolished ; the village system was adhered to, and 
the indigenous methods of administration were retained so 
far as possible ; demands for the collection of revenue 
were not pressed severely ; and various means were taken 
to try and bring home to the people the fact that there 
was no intention of undermining or interfering with the 
Buddhist religion. Endeavours were also made to de- 
velop the rich natural resources of the country. Agri- 
cultural interests, besides having for years back been 
hampered by dacoity, had suffered throughout the whole 
of the dry central zone from the state of disrepair into 
which irrigation works, dating from centuries back, had 
been allowed to fall. The ruby mines, jade mining, coal 
fields, oil wells, teak forests, and gold fields, were all 
valuable natural resources, whose exploitation would be- 
come of great importance so soon as the country began 
to be somewhat more settled. 

As a means of pacification and of advance towards 
these desirable ends, the important step was taken of 
disarming the country. Begun in the Mandalay district, 
it was gradually, but without undue delay, extended 
throughout the whole of the fourteen districts of Upper 
Burma. All guns were called in from towns and villages, 
and were only partially distributed under proper safe- 
guards. After being marked with distinctive marks and 
numbers, guns were only restored to licensees consisting 
of respectable men living in well-behaved villages and 
towns where there were at least five to ten armed 
licensees. Villages with well-kept chevatix-de-frise, bam- 
boo stockades, and proper watch and ward kept at the 
small Kin or "guard-houses" placed near the gates, 
were safer with ten or more guns in the hands of licensees 
than they were before ; whereas hamlets with only two 
or three guns would, under any circumstances, have been 
unable to offer strong resistance to dacoit attacks, be- 
cause experience showed that such small villages never 
attempted to defend themselves. As soon as the mass 
of the people living in the towns and villages on the 
plains were deprived of their arms, it became no longer 
possible for rebels and dacoits to replace guns lost in 
action or given up on acceptance of amnesty. Insistence 



was at the same time made that villages whose position 
exposed them to attack should surround themselves with 
substantial stockades, and that a proper watch should be 
maintained there day and night. Wherever this proved 
ineffectual, and in outlying tracts where military posts 
could not be established, small hamlets were grouped 
together to form a more easily defensible village, and 
villao^es were moved to more suitable sites. Incon- 
venience and a certain amount of hardship was insepar- 
able from the latter measure ; but, as the houses in 
Burmese villages are only constructed of posts, bamboos, 
and thatch grass, easily obtainable from the neighouring 
jungles, the inevitable hardships were reduced to a mini- 
mum. Even in the royal city of Mandalay the houses 
were mostly of the same flimsy and uncostly description, 
and were worth only about fifty rupees (/^zi) apiece, 
although some were, of course, much more valuable. 
The six thousand houses located between the palace and 
the city walls were also subsequently cleared out on 
payment of compensation reckoned according to the 
number of the posts supporting each house, and the house- 
holders thus ejected on payment of compensation for 
disturbance were granted building sites in the new extra- 
mural town of Mandalay, while the old Shwemyodaw, or 
*' royal golden city," was retained exclusively for the civil 
and military servants of Government, and transformed 
into Fort Dufferin. 

With a credulous and superstitious race like the 
Burmese, even trivial things often assume dimensions of 
enormous magnitude. In 1887 one of the seven- roofed 
Pyathat or ornamental buildings on the north wall of 
the city was utilized as the central portion of a Govern- 
ment House for the Chief Commissioner. This was a 
mistake. If it had any ornamental spire at all, Govern- 
ment House should have had nine graduated roofs to 
indicate clearly that it was the abode of the ruler of the 
province. Even the palaces of the Shan chiefs are 
allowed to have a seven-roofed Pyathat, and to put 
fewer than the nine representing supreme sovereignty, 
while the Myenan or imperial palace, " the Centre of 
the Universe," still stood among the palace buildings, 



showed great want of knowledge concerning Burmese 
sumptuary laws, ceremonial etiquette, and national ideas. 
It is not conceivable that there could have been any 
deliberate intention in thus giving a certain amount of 
hope to aspirants for the throne, or to rebel Bo and 
leaders of large dacoit bands. But the work of paci- 
fication in the immediate vicinity of Mandalay would 
probably have been accomplished more easily and speedily 
if the British Government had built for their represent- 
ative a nine-roofed house, whose spire towered aloft 
higher than the pinnacle of the Pyathat above the lion 
throne in Thibaw's great Hall of Audience. The fact that 
this symbol of authority still remained is said to have 
been one of the causes leading to the great incendiary 
fires which later on broke out in and around Mandalay 
during April, 1892. 

For the apprehension of noted rebel leaders and dacoit 
Bo large rewards were offered, and dissension was sown 
among their followers by liberal offers of pardon to the 
less prominent members of the various bands, as well as 
to the rank and file consisting of young or ignorant men, 
more misguided than criminal. In dealing with these 
rebels and dacoits there was neither extreme severity on 
the one hand, nor mawkish sentimentality on the other. 
Measures of repression and punishment were necessary to 
crush the armed resistance, and no one in authority 
shrank from the responsibility of inflicting them as the 
only way of ultimately bringing peace and prosperity to 
the disturbed and harassed country. The gangs were 
hunted down continuously, and every effort was made to 
capture the leaders. When captured or brought in as a 
prisoner by villagers wishing to be rid of his oppression, 
a dacoit Bo had a fair trial, and was hanged if convicted ; 
but promises of pardon on voluntary surrender were per- 
formed with a scrupulousness which sometimes thwarted 
justice in favour of mercy. Proclamation was also made 
that, while in the meantime no clemency could be shown 
to those who were confined as prisoners in jails, the 
question of liberating them or reducing their sentences 
would be duly considered so soon as the state of the 
country permitted Government to take this step. 



The attitude of the Shan Sawbwa or chiefs on the 
hills to the east of the Irrawaddy was, fortunately for the 
work of pacification, such as gave reason to hope that 
the allegiance of these rulers would not be difficult to 
obtain. The problem with these, and with the other far 
less civilized hill tribes — the Kachin and Chin — on the 
north and west, was quite different from that among the 
Burmese on the plains, as they were all well-defined 
groups of men living under the rule of tribal chiefs 
whose authority was generally sufficient to preserve order 
amongst them. It was not a case of dealing with dis- 
integrated masses like the rebel bands and dacoit gangs, 
but with large organized tribal units, each under the 
moral and administrative control of an individual ruler. 
At first there were some difficulties, but ultimately the 
Shan chiefs willingly accepted the British supremacy 
and agreed to preserve order among their people so long 
as their rights and dignity of chieftainship were recognized 
and troops were not quartered upon them. In return for 
this they agreed to restrain their people from internecine 
warfare and from raidingf down into the territories under 
military occupation. 

They were at once placed in a more advantageous 
commercial position than under Burmese rule, for the 
restrictions and imposts on Letpet or " pickled tea " were 
removed, and this most valuable of the hill products 
could be taken down to the plains. Under Burmese 
Government about 7|- lacs of rupees of revenue (^50,000) 
had annually been realized in connexion with the mono- 
poly affecting the importation and sale of tea. Owing to 
the disturbed state of the country no tribute was levied 
in 1886-87, and thereafter the demand made was only 
about half the amount fixed under Burmese rule, ^\ lacs 
(^30,000). _ 

The first of the great Shan chiefs to render allegiance to 
the British was Kun Saing, Sawbwa of Thibaw, one of the 
principal Northern Shan States lying due east of Mandalay. 
On 27th January, 1887, he came in person to Mandalay, 
and was formally received at the eastern gate of the city 
by Sir Charles Bernard. This was not the first time he 
had had an interview with a Chief Commissioner ; but 



the circumstances were different. In 1884 the Thibaw 
Sawbwa fled from his State through fear of King Thibaw, 
and sought refuge in Lower Burma. He went to Ran- 
goon to worship at the great Shwe Dagon Pagoda. 
While residing there in one of the suburbs he executed 
two of his followers, who had been guilty of some act of 
commission or omission. Tried for murder by the Re- 
corder of Rangoon, he was condemned to death ; but 
the capital sentence was commuted to imprisonment for 
two years, on account of his having had as Chief the 
power of life and death in his own State. In Rangoon 
jail he was treated like other convicts. His head was 
shaved ; he had to wear the coarse canvas prison garb 
stamped with the black broad-arrow, and he had to do his 
daily task of hard labour in husking rice with a grinding- 
mill worked by hand. It was while so engaged that Mr. 
(afterwards Sir Charles) Crosthwaite, then Acting Chief 
Commissioner, saw him on a prison inspection, and used 
the Government prerogative in granting him a free pardon. 
On King Thibaw's downfall Kun Saing recovered his 
State, held aloof from the combinations and dissensions 
of the other States, and took an early opportunity of 
intimating allegiance to the British Government. As a 
reward for this, the tribute payable by his State was 
remitted for ten years, and the three petty States of 
Mainglon, Thonze, and Maington were made sub- 
ordinate to the Thibaw State. 

It is not impossible that his experiences in the Ran- 
goon jail in 1884 had some direct connexion with Kun 
Saing's policy towards the British in 1886; but the 
Thibaw Sawbwa has since kept his allegiance well, and 
his lead^ was speedily followed by the majority of the 
Shan chiefs, who had been in open rebellion during the 
last three years of King Thibaw's reign. A digression 
may here,^ perhaps, be permitted to mention that in 1890 
he sent his two sons to England for the completion of 
their education, that he himself came to see the country 
in 1893, and that he was nominated a member of the 
Legislative Council of Burma on its formation in 1897. 
And once again he returned to England, in the summer 
of 1 898, to present a rare gem to Her Majesty at Windsor. 



Between confinement with hard labour in Rangoon jail and 
a formal reception by the Chief Commissioner of Burma 
at the principal gate of Mandalay city, or an audience of 
the Queen- Empress at Windsor Castle, there are vast 
differences. It surely speaks well for the British adminis- 
tration of Burma that such things should have been 
possible ; and it speaks better still for Kun Saing, 
Sawbwa of Thibaw, that they actually took place. 
When, in May, 1898, he showed me over his Haw or 
palace, and did me the unusual honour of conducting me 
into the private apartments, and introducing me to his 
queens and princesses, then led me to his private chapel 
and the look-out tower, I could not help, during my 
conversation with him, thinking that I had been privi- 
leged to make the acquaintance of a singularly magnani- 
mous as well as a very intelligent and far-seeing 

The wild, uncivilized tribes inhabiting the densely- 
wooded hills flanking and separating the valleys of the 
Irrawaddy and its tributaries were left to be dealt with 
later on, by means of punitive expeditions, and by the 
establishment of military forts in their midst, when once 
the plains had been brought into a more settled con- 
dition. Before Sir Frederick Roberts reached Mandalay 
the short cool season with which the northern portion of 
Burma is favoured had already begun, while the arrange- 
ments for work had been practically elaborated by 
General White and Sir Herbert Macpherson,and had been 
approved by himself as Commander-in-Chief: but he lost 
no time in issuing on 20th November general instructions 
to his brigadiers, and to officers in command of flying 
columns, for the conduct of operations throughout the 
coming season. Columns sent out in pursuit of rebel 
gangs were to be provisioned for ten days at least, depots 
being laid down at convenient centres to supplement the 
supplies obtainable locally from villages. When two or 
more columns were acting in concert, communications 
were to be kept up as constantly as possible by means of 
signalling, scouts and patrols. Liberal rewards were to 
be given to guides and those furnishing useful imforma- 
tion involving risk to themselves. As the success of 


operations and the health of the troops depended so 
much on the proper maintenance of commissariat ar- 
rangements and transport, the careful treatment of pack 
animals was enjoined on all officers. They were likewise 
exhorted to see that the troops did not injure the property 
of the people, or wound their susceptibilities, as it was of 
importance to cultivate friendly relations with them and 
gain their confidence, whilst putting before them evidences 
of military power. Chief men of districts were to be 
treated with consideration and distinction, and pains were 
to be taken to eradicate the fear that the British intended 
to overthrow the Buddhist religion and all the customs and 
privileges dear to the people. In operations against 
positions held by rebels in arms against British rule, 
efforts were to be made to surround their positions so as 
to inflict the heaviest loss possible ; for a severe lesson 
promptly administered, even at the cost of some casualties 
on the British side, was held to be the shortest and best 
way of crushing organized armed resistance. Villages 
and jungle retreats were therefore to be surrounded with 
cavalry, and carefully beaten through by infantry. As 
Princes, pretenders, and dacoit Bo would generally be 
found heading the columns of fugitives, part of the 
cavalry was to pursue them without wasting time over the 
rank and file, many of whom were villagers forced, nclens 
volens, into the gangs. Columns of occupation employed 
in the pacification of tracts from which rebels and dacoit 
bands had been dispersed were to make short marches 
and halt at all towns and large villages, so as to give civil 
officers opportunities of becoming acquainted with the 
districts, and military officers time for making reconnais- 
sances and sketch maps. When civil officers accompanied 
columns, all prisoners were handed over to them for dis- 
posal, otherwise the officer in command had ex officio 
magisterial powers to inflict up to two years' imprisonment 
or thirty lashes : if heavier punishment were considered 
necessary, the cases were reserved till they could be dis- 
posed of by a civil officer. In view of the malarious and 
unhealthy nature of the climate to which they were un- 
avoidably exposed during operations of this sort, and of 
the extremely arduous fatigue which they were constantly 



being called upon to incur, every reasonable effort was 
made, both in camp and on the march, to minimize the 
risks to which the troops were exposed from those 
scourges of the tropical jungles, malarial fever and 
dysentery/ The number of officers and men who suc- 
cumbed to these climatic diseases and to their sequelae was 
far in excess of that mown down in the hundreds of skir- 
mishes which took place before Upper Burma was pacified. 
The little brick-walled cemeteries near Pagdn, Hlaingdet, 
and other similar but now disused military posts, are filled 
with the grave-mounds of British soldiers, who thus laid 
down their lives to help pacify the new province. The 
tooth of time has already gnawed keenly into the little 
teakwood crosses upon which were inscribed the names 
and regiments of the rank and file ; and in a very few 
years all will be nameless graves save the spots where 
officers rest beneath more enduring memorials of marble, 
granite, or sandstone. 

There was never a campaign in which so much initiative 
was left to the junior officers, and the captains and subal- 
terns nobly upheld the best traditions of the British army 
as a fighting body. The improved education now given to 
military cadets at Sandhurst and Woolwich made itself 
very apparent in a practical way throughout the cam- 
paign of pacification, lasting for five years after the an- 
nexation. The country had never been surveyed, and 
there were no maps : hence officers were required to send 
in sketch maps, drawn to a fixed scale. These were 
pieced together in Mandalay, and made into a very 
serviceable map, from which operations and even com- 

^ The casualties between 17th November, 1885, and 31st October, 
1886, were : 

Killed or died of wounds. 

Died from disease. 


Officers . . . 
Men .... 





Total . 






bined movements from different bases could be directed 
at the headquarters of the Burma field force. 

These operations were pushed on so vigorously during 
the cold season, that by March, 1887, when Sir Charles 
Bernard, whose health had suffered severely from the 
strain of the previous fifteen months, handed over the chief 
commissionership to Mr. (now Sir Charles) Crosthwaite, 
the number of posts held in upper Burma by troops had 
risen to 141. By this time seventeen districts had been 
formed and grouped into three divisions, under Commis- 
sioners who confirmed all capital sentences, and revised 
and superintended the proceedings of district officers. The 
civil officers were everywhere dependent on military 
escorts, and could nowhere move about their districts 
freely ; but the tide of affairs was already beginning to 
turn. While, on the one hand, the officers commanding- 
posts and parties of troops in the field were acquiring a 
knov/ledge of the people and of the country, the rebels and 
dacoits, on the other hand, were beginning to get tired 
and disheartened with the continuous hunting down and 
harassing. The constant pursuit of the cavalry and 
mounted infantry was beginning to tell on both the leaders 
and their followers ; and the tactics pursued tended to cut 
them adrift from their bases of supply and their sources 
of information as to the movements of British troops. 

Despite the progress, however, affairs were still very 
bad. The Mandalay district was to a great extent in the 
hands of three or four Bo, who headed large gangs 
and acted in concert so far as to recognize and respect 
the limits of each leader's territorial jurisdiction for the 
levy of blackmail on villages located therein. These 
Bo professed to act on behalf of the Myingun Prince, 
still a refugee at Pondicherry, and were kept together and 
instructed how to act in combination by a relative of his 
who styled himself the Bayingan or Viceroy. Sagaing 
was terrorized by dacoits that habitually murdered village 
headmen who refused obedience or neglected to pay 
blackmail. Nga Hlau still overran the Shwebo and Yeii 
districts. The Ruby Mines district remained quiet after 
an expedition under General Stewart took possession of 
Mogok, its chief town ; but in the country to the north 



of that a young- Shan named Kan Hlaing had assumed a 
position of open enmity to the British, because of their 
decHninor to assist him in estabHshing himself as Sawbwa 
of the Shan States of Mohlaing and Momeik. The upper 
portion of the Chindwin valley was fairly quiet. The 
Sawbwa of Thaungthut had made his submission, while 
the Sawbwa of Kale was not in open hostility, though he 
had not yet declared his allegiance. The latter arrested 
and handed over a pretender calling himself Buddha 
Yaza, who was promptly tried and executed. In the 
lower Chindwin there continued to be much disturbance 
in the Pagyi country, a wild tract to a great extent 
covered with inaccessible and unhealthy forests. The 
Pagdn district was overrun with dacoits, who found refuge 
in the tangle of scrub jungles and ravines clothing the 
spurs extending into the adjacent plains from the remark- 
able hill of Popa, lying to the north-east of Pagan and 
about forty miles back from the Irrawaddy river. About 
4,500 feet in height and conical in shape, Popa towers 
upwards from the skyline, a solitary mountain peak sur- 
rounded by a vast extent of plain, in marked resemblance 
to the sacred Fujisan of Japan. The scrub-covered 
spurs and ravines, which hid a good deal of cultivated 
land in the hollows, had ever been a favourite resort of 
dacoit gangs. The villagers were mostly cattle rievers, 
who stored their beasts in large pens or enclosures in the 
jungle lest they might stray back to their lawful owners. 
Further to the south, between Taungdwingyi and the 
old frontier, Bo Min Yaung was ravaging the country 
with a large following, accompanied by ponies and ele- 

In the south-eastern tracts drained by the Sittang 
river four Bo, Maung Hmon, Maung Gyi, Maung Lat, 
and Buddha Yaza still had their hunting grounds. Time 
after time they collected their men, but dispersed again 
into the hill jungles when hard pressed by troops, who 
left them no rest by day or night, and who prevented 
them from disturbing the country south of the old frontier. 

On the right bank of the Irrawaddy, below the con- 
fluence of the Chindwin, the country was not really under 
administration. A pretender, calling himself the Shwe- 



cryobyu Prince, had a large following, while the wild Yaw 
Tracts to the west of that were overrun by dacoits. 
The northern part of the Minbu district was held by 
Oktamd, while Bo Shwe swayed the southern portion 
towards Minhla and Thayetmyo. Both of these leaders 
had a strong organization and pillaged the country under 
a more methodic system than any of the other dacoit 
Bo. In the intervals between raids and forays into the 
open country near the Irrawaddy, they withdrew into the 
water-logged and densely forested tracts, reeking with 
noxious exhalations, skirting the base of the Arakan 
Yoma, the range of hills forming the western watershed 
of the Irrawaddy and its tributaries. Here they re- 
mained comparatively safe, finding a double protection in 
the thick jungles traversed only by small footpaths, and 
in the malarious climate deadly to those who had not 
been hereditarily acclimatized to it. But Bo Shwe's influ- 
ence was now already on the wane. He had long been 
hunted vigorously by mounted infantry and Gurkhas, and 
had more than once barely escaped with his life. 

In the Upper Irrawaddy valley, the Katha district was 
rendered fairly quiet except where the State of Wuntho 
marched with it on the south-west. The Sawbwa of this 
Shan State, comprising the hills between the Irrawaddy 
and the Chindwin, refused to come in or acknowledge 
allegiance to the British, and endeavoured to seize the 
town of Mogaung on the north, which was held by a 
Burmese town magistrate, acting nominally for the British 
Government, but in reality " eating the town " as in the 
old days. Between Mogaung and Bhamo the country 
was undisturbed. 

Such was the condition of the Irrawaddy plain, the 
Chindwin valley, and the Sittang drainage, the three 
great riverine tracts forming the central portion of Upper 
Burma, in March, 1887, after Sir Frederick Roberts had, 
on 1 2th February, returned from Burma to India, leaving 
the Upper Burma field force under the command of 
Major-General Sir George White. On ist April, 1887, 
this force consisted of 20,791 troops, divided into four 
brigades (Mandalay, Shwebo, Meiktila, and Myingyan), 
and three smaller separate commands (Bhamo, Ruby 



Mines, and Chindwin). The garrison in Lower Burma 
was again formed into a separate force under Major- 
General B. L. Gordon, and consisted of 2,106 Europeans 
and 4,088 native troops. 

During the following year satisfactory progress was 
made in the work of pacification. Order was almost 
completely restored in Lower Burma, while in Upper 
Burma a large Military Police force of 13,244 officers and 
men had been organized, and the work of maintaining 
order, previously performed by troops, was now efficiently 
carried out by these police, acting under the immediate 
control of the civil officers. On ist April, 1888, the 
purely military force was reduced to 16,602, and ceased 
to be on the footing of a field force, while the number of 
brigades was reduced to three. But the total effective 
strength of troops and Military Police throughout Burma 
rose from 31,830 to 34,712 ; for while the purely military 
garrison of Upper Burma was reduced by over 4,000 
men, the Military Police under civil administration rose 
by 8,400. 

The organization of the Military Police and the 
establishment of Military Police posts, in place of posts 
held by troops, contributed greatly towards success. So 
soon as the pacification of any district was sufficiently 
advanced, the military posts were withdrawn and Military 
Police posts established. In time each district had its 
own battalion, recruited from the warlike races of 
Northern India, and officered by a commandant and an 
assistant commandant appointed from Indian regiments. 
These Military Police battalions were organized like native 
regiments in all except the scale of commissioned officers. 
Their duties were almost purely military. They supple- 
mented the work of the regular troops by occupying 
posts and maintaining patrols when once the first step 
towards pacification, the breaking up and dispersal of 
rebel and dacoit gangs, had been achieved. Subse- 
quently, when the work of pacification was completed, 
several of these battalions were bodily transferred to the 
Indian army. At first the minimum strength of any 
Military Police post was fixed at twenty-five men ; but 
this was raised to forty in order that, when patrols of ten 

129 K 


men or more were sent out, the force remaining behind 
would always be strong enough to hold the post against 
attacks, for experience showed that when troops were 
withdrawn there was a tendency towards recrudescence 


The district magistrate had control over both the Civil 
and the Military Police in his district, and was responsible 
for saying what posts should be occupied, and what the 
strength of each should be. The general principle laid 
down^for the guidance of civil officers in allocating the 
force was that the most important and central posts 
should be occupied by fairly large bodies of Military 
Police, to each of which should be added a small number 
of Burmese constables for the purpose of receiving 
reports, investigating cases, and collecting information. 
Stress was laid on maintaining constant systematic 
patrols, and on training the men in musketry practice. 
Between these protective Military Police posts inter- 
mediate posts were held by Civil Police, consisting of 
Burmese recruited locally. To enable long marches and 
prompt pursuits to be made, thus the better to supply 
the place of the regular troops whose work they had 
taken over, from eleven to twenty per cent, of the men 
in each Military Police battalion were mounted on small, 
hardy Burmese ponies. 

The hands of the district magistrates were much 
strengthened, and the work of pacification greatly 
assisted, by the passing of the Upper Burma Village 
Regulation (XIV. of 1887). Designed to arrest that 
disintegration of village communities, and to prevent that 
undue centralization of authority which had resulted in 
Lower Burma from abandoning the previous customs so 
well suited to the Burmese character, the regulation gave 
considerable power to local headmen, and enforced joint 
responsibility on villagers in matters of police. Under 
the village system of administration, local headmen had 
been the foundation of the civil government, controlling 
the villages, collecting revenue, deciding disputes and 
dealing with petty crime. In Lower Burma, after the 
second Burmese war, this excellent system had been 
allowed to fall to pieces and it was likely to soon crumble 



away in Upper Burma also, unless specially protected. 
The Village Regulation secured, as nearly as possible, to 
headmen the position and the powers formerly possessed 
by them in Burmese times, and it enforced with much 
strictness the joint responsibility of the village in criminal 
matters. A great many petty criminal cases could, under 
it, be disposed of by the village headmen, who were also 
responsible for taking immediate action in, and for 
reporting to the nearest police post, any case of serious 
crime. Under its authority provisions were made for 
the better defence of villages, and for deporting tem- 
porarily to other parts of the country men known to be 
in league with rebels or dacoits, or the friends and 
relatives of those declared to be outlaws. This latter 
measure contributed very specially towards the establish- 
ment of order. 

Before the end of the official year 1887-88, the Man- 
dalay district was freed from all large or formidable gangs 
of rebels or dacoits, and most of those in the Shwebo 
district had been broken up and their leaders either killed 
or captured. In Sagaing the notorious Hla U had been 
killed by his followers, who broke up into small bands 
and terrorized the forest tracts ; hence special measures 
had to be adopted against these. In Ava Bo Tok and 
Shwe Yan were killed, and the district reduced to 
quietude. Of two pretender Princes in the Yeii district 
one died of fever and the other was executed as a rebel. 
The gangs troubling Kyaukse were pursued into the 
Shan hills and dispersed, but subsequently rallied again 
under a pretender calling himself the Setkya Prince, who 
soon took refuge again in the hills. In the Chindwin 
valley the rising of the so-called Shwegyobya Prince, 
who had been a vaccinator in Lower Burma, was quelled 
by most of the leaders being either killed in action or else 
taken, tried, and executed, while the pretender himself 
fled into the Chin hills. Serious Chin raids from the 
hills also took place, which had to be dealt with later on. 
Much was done to pacify Myingyan and Meiktila, but 
gangs headed by Bo Cho and Ya Nyun still remained 
unsuppressed, though their influence was on the wane. 
In Pagdn the two chief leaders infesting the P6pa hill 


were accounted for, Tha Do being killed and Ya Kut 
tried and executed ; while the Yaw country to the west 
was settled and placed on a satisfactory footing. To the 
south of this 6ktamd still defied all endeavours to crush 
his power. He and his chief lieutenants were proclaimed 
outlaws beyond the hope of pardon, but an amnesty was 
offered to all minor followers, and over 1,200 of his 
men surrendered with their arms on these terms. From 
Minhla Bo Shwe was pursued in Lower Burma and 
killed by the mounted infantry after a Robin Hood career 
extending over about fifteen years. In Magwe Bo Min 
Yaung was killed and Tok Gyi captured, while other 
gangs were dispersed. North of Mandalay, the Ruby 
Mines, Myadaung, and Bhamo districts were fairly free 
from organized rebellion, and the Wuntho Sawbwa had 
made his submission, though he sullenly refused to come 
in personally or to receive British officers in a befitting 
manner. A military column visited Mogaung and the 
jade mines, and established settled administration there. 

The results of the work achieved in Upper Burma by the 
end of the first fifteen months of its administration as a 
British province had, in fact, quite surpassed expectation. 
Organized rebellion had been crushed in all except two 
or three of the seventeen districts, although the more 
sporadic occurrence of dacoity could only be expected to 
cease, and even then by no means entirely, when once 
public security and tranquillity had become more 
thoroughly established. In every district the people 
were becoming more accustomed and reconciled to 
British rule, and more willing to assist in the maintenance 
of order. One of the best signs of this was that on 
various occasions villagers, tired of the oppression of 
dacoits, resisted and killed them. 

Several Acts of the Legislature were extended to 
Upper Burma under the Scheduled Districts Act, and a 
new Military Police Act was passed and applied to the 
whole province. Among the special regulations enacted 
for Upper Burma, the most important of all was the 
Village Regulation, but others provided also for the 
registration of documents affecting immovable property, 
the establishment of municipalities, the administration 



and control of the forests, the collection and realization of 
arrears of revenue, the limitation of suits, the declaration 
of the law concerning stamps, and the control of mining 
and trading in rubies and other precious stones. In 
May, 1887, the Chief Commissioner had resumed control 
of both Upper and Lower Burma, and by the end of the 
year the Secretariat establishments for both parts of the 
province were combined at the headquarters of Govern- 
ment in Rangoon. 

The work of establishing authority firmly throughout 
all the plains and central lands forming the valleys of 
the Upper Irrawaddy, Chindwin, and Sittang rivers had 
already been so far accomplished as to enable steps to be 
taken towards dealing with the wild Kachin and Chin 
tribes, who inhabited the hills on the north and west and 
were continually raiding down into the valleys. 

Things had meanwhile been progressing very favour- 
ably in the great Shan States extending eastwards across 
the Salween and the Mekong or Cambodia rivers, and 
marching with China and Siam. The first steps for the 
settlement of these States were taken early in January, 
1887, when a mixed force of European and native troops, 
under Colonel (now Sir Edward) Stedman, accompanied 
by two civil officers, was despatched to Nyaungyw^ for 
the relief of the Sawbwa there, who had taken an early 
opportunity of intimating his allegiance to the British 
Government. Like the Thibaw Sawbwa, he gained 
greatly by taking this step ; for he was confirmed as 
chief, although he was then in unjust possession of the 
State. At the time of the occupation of Mandalay the 
ruling Sawbwa, Saw Maung, was at the capital, whence 
he at once returned to his State lying at the south-west 
corner of the Shan tracts. Here he was attacked by the 
supporters of the Limbin Prince and driven out, while his 
half-brother. Saw Chit Su, was appointed Sawbwa. The 
latter was attacked and expelled by another brother named 
Saw On, who usurped the State, declined to join the 
Limbin Prince's confederacy, tendered his allegiance to 
the British, and implored them to assist his loyal efforts 
to maintain himself as their tributary. In this he was 
successful; but in July, 1897, Saw Maung had the subse- 



quent satisfaction of performing Saw 6n's obsequies at 
Taunggyi.and of having the Sawbwaship bestowed on him 
once again by the British Government. In October, 
1885, the Limbin Prince (a son of the heir apparent 
assassinated by the Myingun Prince in 1866), who had 
Hved under British protection during Thibaw's reign, 
escaped from Moulmein and placed himself at the head 
of a confederacy organized by exiled chiefs in the Keng- 
tung State for the overthrow of King Thibaw or the 
establishment of an independent Shan kingdom. By 
the time the Limbin Prince arrived and placed himself at 
the head of the rebellion, the Burmese troops had been 
withdrawn and the Kingdom of Ava had fallen, so that 
only the alternative remained to attempt to establish a 
Shan kingdom. The important States of Mone, Yat- 
sauk, Maingpun, and Mawkme, and about a score of 
minor States had joined the movement, while others held 
aloof, probably from motives of personal enmity to one 
or other of the allied chiefs, for, though many of the 
rulers of these States were allied by ties of consanguinity 
or by marriage, there were long-standing feuds always 
liable to break out into internecine warfare at every 
opportunity which seemed favourable. The most im- 
portant States which refused to take part in the con- 
federacy were the western States of Thibaw in the 
north, and of Nyaungyw6 in the south. Their prompt 
avowal of allegiance came opportunely for the British, 
and was richly rewarded. 

Early in February, 1887, the British force relieved 
Nyaungywd, and a Superintendent was established with 
a sufficient garrison at Maingthauk, to which the name 
of Fort Stedman was given, on the north-eastern shore 
of the Inle lake, a position suitable for the purpose of 
asserting the suzerainty of the British Government, of 
putting an end to the anarchy and internecine warfare 
which prevailed, and of maintaining order and encourag- 
ing progress in the various States. In May, 1887, the 
rebel confederacy was broken up, and the Limbin Prince 
was, on surrendering, at his own request sent to Calcutta 
as a pensioner. 

During the rainy months of the summer of 1887 



anarchy prevailed throughout all the Shan States ex- 
cept Thibaw ; but, as soon as the state of the season 
permitted, two powerful columns were sent on tour 
throughout the country. These operations were suc- 
cessful in immediately obtaining the personal submission 
of all the principal Sawbwa, of confirming them in their 
positions as tributary chiefs, of settling their relations 
with the Government and with each other, of fixing the 
amount of tribute to be paid by each State, of placing 
the administration of the States on a satisfactory foot- 
ing, and of getting the Sawbwa to agree to refer tribal 
disputes to the Superintendent in place of resorting to 
warfare. This peaceful settlement of the States on the 
great Shan plateau during the cold season of 1887-88 
was obtained bloodlessly, and almost without a shot 
being fired. The only interchange of shots was when 
some men in the Taungbaing State attacked the rear 
guard of one of the columns. 

During the year 1888-89 lawlessness was stamped 
out in Lower Burma, except in the north-western fron- 
tier district of Thayetmyo ; while the progress of the 
pacification of the internal portions of Upper Burma 
continued to advance most satisfactorily along the same 
lines of action as in the previous year. While the 
suppression of dacoity was mainly left to the Military 
Police, the troops were utilized chiefly in pursuing and 
breaking up the few remaining bands of rebels still at 
large in two or three of the districts ; and opportunity 
was also at length taken to send punitive expeditions into 
the hills to let the Chins and Kachins feel they had now 
very different masters to deal with than under the old 
effete Burmese administration, and to make them realize 
that raiding and lawlessness would have to cease. The 
Mandalay district remained free from organized crime, 
although a dacoit leader, Nga To, gave a good deal of 
trouble. From Kyaukse the Setkya Prince was driven 
into the Shan hills, captured, tried for rebellion and 
murder, and executed. Sagaing, Ava, and Shwebo 
were reduced to order, the most formidable of the robber 
gangs being broken up and their leaders either sur- 
rendered or else were killed or captured ; but Yeii was 


still infested by Yan Gyi Aung and minor leaders, whose 
gangs found refuge in the dense forests of this thinly 
populated district. The Chindwin districts, being cleared 
of dacoits, were free from serious crime by the end of 
the year, and villagers who left their homesteads during 
the disturbed times were returning. In Myingyan and 
Meiktila Bo Cho and Ya Nyun were still at large, though 
many minor leaders were disposed of. In Pakokku and 
the Yaw country various leaders sprang up ; but the 
chief Bo, Tha Do, Saga, and Nga Kwe, were killed, 
and the whole of the district reduced to an undisturbed 
condition by the end of the year. In Minbu Oktamd 
and his subordinates Oktayd, Byaing Gyi, and others, 
were still at large, but were being hunted down with such 
untiring energy that their power was rapidly waning. 
Yamethin and Meiktila remained undisturbed through- 
out the year, and Pyinmand (the old Ningyan district) 
was freed from organized crime ; south and west of these 
districts Magwe was, however, more disturbed than any 
other part of the province. Seven large and numerous 
smaller dacoit gangs sprang up there during the rainy 
season of 1888, and two pretenders, calling themselves 
the Shwekyinyo Prince and Buddha Yaza, placed them- 
selves in rebellion at the head of the gangs. En- 
couragement was given to this movement by the repulse 
of a party of military police in November. The troops 
in the district were reinforced, the provisions of the 
Village Regulation were worked vigorously, and amnesty 
was offered to all except some of the prominent leaders 
proclaimed as outlaws ; but the end of the year found 
the Administration forced to admit that the state of 
Magwe was a reproach to it. 

In the northern districts the settled portions of Bhamo 
continued quiet, but parts of Katha and the Ruby Mines 
district were infested with dacoits. The Wuntho Sawbwa 
paid the tribute demanded of him, but still declined to 
come in and make personal submission. The leasing of 
the Ruby Mines to an English company no doubt called 
forth a recrudescence of lawlessness by exciting the ap- 
prehensions and the ill-will of the resident miners who 
had previously enjoyed the practical monopoly of digging 



and washing for rubies. In Mogaung a rebellion was 
raised by Maung Po Saw, a former magistrate there, who 
succeeded in exciting the hostility of the Kachin tribes 
after the return of the military column which had visited 
the jade mines. The trade route was blocked, and in 
May, 1888, a determined attack was made on the stock- 
aded town of Mogaung, where the rebels received severe 
handling from the Gurkha Military Police. As the 
Kachins siding with Po Saw refused to make formal 
submission and deliver up the rebels they were harbour- 
ing, punitive operations were undertaken against them 
under the direction of Sir George White, in the dry 
season of 1888-89, with complete success. Posts were 
established at important points, and the tribes, almost 
without exception, submitted and gave guarantees for 
future good conduct. In the south-eastern portion of 
Bhamo, lying between the Shweli river and the Chinese 
frontier, a good deal of trouble was also caused by the 
Pdnkan Kachins, incited to disturbance by Saw Yan 
Hnaing, a grandson of King Mindon, and Kan Hlaing, 
a dissatisfied claimant to the Shan States of Mohlaing 
and Mong Mit. Ever since the annexation these Ponkan 
Kachins had been a menace to the peace of the Bhamo 
district, but they were effectually reduced to reason by 
an expedition sent against them under Brigadier-General 
{now Sir George) Wolseley in the spring of 1889, on 
the return of the troops from Mogaung. 

In the Shan States a military expedition had to be 
sent against Sawlapaw, the chief of Eastern Karen ni, 
who made an unprovoked attack on the State of Mawk- 
me, expelling the Sawbwa, occupying the capital, and 
devastating the country. In May, 1888, he retired before 
the approach of a British force ; but, on their withdrawal, 
leaving only a small garrison of native troops in the 
town of Mawkm^, the red Karens returned in July and 
again ravaged the country, burning villages, and plunder- 
ing the people. The Karens were attacked by British 
troops and forced to retreat with heavy loss. After two 
insolent letters had been received from Sawlapaw and 
returned to him by the hands of his own messengers, an 
ultimatum was sent to him insisting, among other things, 



on his making personal submission to the Superintendent 
at Fort Stedman. Owing to non-compliance therewith, 
a strong column, under Brigadier-General H. Collett, 
C.B., marched against Karenni from Fort Stedman, 
while a second column, under Colonel J. J. Harvey, 
operated from the southern valley of the Salween. After 
encountering some resistance both columns reached Saw- 
Ion, the capital, early in January ; but Sawlapaw had 
fled before the arrival of the northern column. His 
nephew and heir apparent, Sawlawi, was inducted into 
the Sawbwaship of Eastern Karenni as a tributary state 
in subordinate alliance with the British Government. 
Apart from this expedition, the current of affairs ran 
smoothly throughout the southern Shan States. Durbars 
were held at Mone and Fort Stedman during May, 
1889, and were attended by almost every chief of note. 
The northern Shan States were not quite so peaceful 
and settled, but nothing occurred which called for special 
military expeditions. 

On the western frontier an important series of opera- 
tions was undertaken against the Chins inhabiting the 
country bordering on the Yaw tracts, the Kale State, 
and the Kiibo valley. The principal of these Chin 
tribes are the Siyin, Sagyilaing, and Kanhaw on the 
north, the Tashon in the centre, and the Baungshe on 
the south. The central Tashon tribe is the most power- 
ful. The suspicions of these tribes were aroused by 
proposals to make a road across their hills from Burma 
into Bengal, and the feelings thus excited were acted 
upon by the Shwegyobyu pretender and the late chief 
of Kale, who had been recently deposed by the British 
Government for active opposition. Incited by these 
two men, the Siyin and Sagyilaing raided into the Kiibo 
valley, and the Baungshe into the Yaw country ; while, 
in May, 1888, the Tashon swept down on Indin and 
kidnapped the newly-appointed Sawbwa of Kal6. To- 
wards the end of the rainy season further raids occurred, 
and Kalemyo itself was attacked. A commencement 
was made with the Siyin and Sagyilaing, all of whose 
villages were destroyed after stubborn resistance in many 
cases. The Kanhaw were next operated against, nearly 



every village belonging to the tribe being taken and 
destroyed. In April, 1889, active operations were also 
commenced against the Tashon, but had to be inter- 
rupted on the advent of the rains. The results of the 
punishment in course of infliction was, however, that 
nearly 200 kidnapped captives were restored to their 
homes, and that an exemplary lesson had been taught 
the three tribes dealt with. 

During February, 1889, the extension of the Rangoon- 
Toungoo railway line to Mandalay was completed, and 
on I St March it was opened to traffic of all descriptions. 
Sanctioned during September, 1886, the surveys were at 
once put in hand, and the construction of the various 
sections took from sixteen months to two years to com- 
plete. About 24,000 coolies, two-thirds of whom were 
Burmese, were employed on the work during the greater 
part of the time. The construction, at a cost of nearly 
two million pounds, of these 220 miles of railway, run- 
ning through a country infested during most of the time 
with rebel bands and dacoit gangs, was a magnificent 
achievement ; and, but for a severe epidemic of cholera, 
during which the works were almost entirely deserted 
over nearly a third of the line, it would have been open 
to traffic by the ist January, 1889. Even before its 
formal opening, so soon as trolleys and construction trains 
could be run, it was found of great service in military 
and police operations, and both directly and indirectly 
its construction contributed in a marked degree towards 
the pacification and settlement of the country. During 
the open season of 1888-89 surveys were carried out to 
the west of the Irrawaddy from Sagaing northwards up 
the Mu Valley and through the Wuntho State into the 
Katha district, so that similar advantages might soon be 
secured to the northern districts in the direction of 

No fresh regulations were passed for Upper Burma 
during the year, though several enactments were extended 
to it under the Scheduled Districts Act ; but a Shan 
States Act provided for the administration of these States 
by the native chiefs subject to the control of the Local 
Government exercised through Superintendents at Fort 



Stedman and Lashio. A Lower Burmese Village Act 
was also passed, extending to the older parts of the pro- 
vince provisions for the administration of the rural tracts 
similar to those preserved for Upper Burma by Regulation 
XIV. of 1887. 

So satisfactory had been the progress of pacification 
and settlement that it was considered unnecessary to 
retain Upper Burma as a separate military command 
after ist April, 1889. Sir George White therefore 
handed over his charge to General (now Sir Benjamin) 
Gordon in Rangoon, and the troops were once more 
brought under the Commander-in-Chief of Madras. The 
Burma command thus reorganized consisted of three 
districts in charge of Brigadiers-General at Rangoon, 
Mandalay, and Myingyan, and of six smaller commands 
at other important centres. During the year the troops 
in Upper Burma were reduced from 13,250 to 11,335; 
but this apparent reduction was again,as in 1887-88, more 
than over-balanced by the numbers of the Military Police 
being raised from 13,244 to 17,880. The total strength 
of troops and Military Police in Upper Burma thus rose 
from 26,494 ill April, 1888, to 29,215 in April, 1889; 
while throughout the whole province it increased from 
32,890 to 34,446 men. In October, 1888, the whole of 
the police forces of Lower and Upper Burma, which had 
hitherto been separately administered, were amalgamated 
under Brigadier-General Stedman as Inspector-General, 
assisted by two Deputy Inspectors-General, one for Civil, 
and one for Military Police. 

By the end of the following year {1889-90) the troops 
throughout Burma still numbered 15,608, while the Mili- 
tary Police force aggregated 18,618, giving a total fighting 
strength of 34,226 men. But matters had meanwhile 
progressed so favorably that the six separate minor com- 
mands directly under the Major-General commanding 
were abolished, the troops being distributed among the 
three district commands under Brigadiers-General at 
Rangoon, Mandalay, and Myingyan, and the Chin ex- 
peditionary force under Brigadier-General (the late Sir 
William Penn) Symons. The energy with which rebels 
were run down and dacoit gangs dispersed effected a 



marked reduction in violent crime throughout almost 
every district. Lower Burma had regained its normal 
condition as before the last war. Mandalay was freed 
from a troublesome gang, headed by Nga To, and district 
officers no longer required escorts for their protection on 
tour. In Kyauks^ a rebel band raised by Kyaw Zaw, 
one of the late Setkya pretender s adherents, was dis- 
persed. Pakokku, Yam^thin, Meiktila, Pymmand, and 
Sagaing remained undisturbed throughout the year ; 
while the Upper and Lower Chindwin districts, Katha, 
the Ruby Mines, Shwebo, and Yeii were reduced to 
order. In this last district the two remaining leaders of 
note. Van Gyi Aung and Nga Aga, were induced to 
surrender through the intermediation of the Gaing Ok or 
Buddhist bishop of the district. The Sawbwa of Wun- 
tho at length made his personal submission at Katha, 
and sent his wife and his sons to visit the Commissioner 
at Mandalay. 

In Minbu Oktama was captured in June, 1889, while 
most of his lieutenants and other independent dacoit 
leaders either surrendered themselves or else were 
killed or captured, and organized dacoity was practically 
suppressed. For the reduction of the lawlessness and 
disorganization of the turbulent Magwe district special 
operations were undertaken with so marked success that 
during the third quarter of the year only one violent 
crime, a petty robbery, was reported. 

As district after district became pacified and settled the 
gradual replacement of military posts by Military Police 
posts in the interior of Upper Burma was effected. At 
the beginning of 1887 there were 142 posts held by 
troops and 56 by Military Police; by the following year 
the numbers had changed to 84 and 1 75 respectively ; 
and early in 1889 only 41 were held by troops and 192 
by Military Police. By the summer of 1889 organized 
resistance to the British Government had collapsed so 
thoroughly throughout Upper Burma that it was found 
possible to reduce the number of Military Police posts 
and to maintain smaller garrisons at those still kept up. 
In all the more settled districts arrangements were there- 
fore made to concentrate, as a strong and highly trained 



reserve, about half the strength of each battalion at the 
headquarters of each civil district ; but this scheme of 
course did not apply to districts like Bhamo, where the 
Military Police had to protect extensive tracts against the 
raids of wild hill tribes, or Katha, where disorder on 
the borders of the Wuntho State still rendered such a 
scheme impracticable. Changes were also made in the 
organization of the Military Police by the amalgamation 
of two or more battalions with the object of reducing the 
strength and the cost of the large total force. 

After General Wolseley's expedition in April 1889 the 
Ponkan Kachins to the soutli-east of Bhamo gave no 
further trouble, while that part of the district was also 
relieved by the capture of the pretender, calling himself 
Buddha Ydza. Kan Hlaing, the Mohlaing-Momeik 
claimant, and Saw Yan Hnaing, King Mindon's grand- 
son, were harboured by the Lwesaing-Tonhon Kachins, 
and continued to cause trouble in the Sinkan township, 
and on the borders of the Mong Mit State. Columns 
were therefore sent against them in December, 1889, from 
Bhamo and Mong Mit, which destroyed the village of 
Lwesaing, received the submission of all the villages in the 
Lwesaing-Tonhon tract, levied fines on all villages which 
had harboured or assisted the pretenders, and brought in 
some of the headmen as prisoners. The result of the 
expedition was the complete submission of the Kachin 
tribes in the Upper Sinkan valley, who were taught a 
severe lesson ; but Saw Yan Hnaing and Kan Hlaing, 
though expelled from their retreats, evaded capture and 
managed to effect their escape into Chinese territory. 

To the west of the Chindwin river the operations of the 
previous season against the Chin tribes, which had been 
interrupted by the rains, were also in December, 1889, 
recommenced under Brigadier-General Symons. The 
objects of the expedition were attained without any 
serious resistance, The powerful Tashon tribes and the 
Baungshe tendered their submission, gave up captives 
they had kidnapped, paid the fines levied on them, and 
promised compliance with the demands of Government. 
The ex-Sawbwa of KaM surrendered himself from his 
retreat among them, and was permitted to resume the 



pension previously allowed to him after his deposition. 
For dealing with the Chins, military posts with political 
officers were established at Fort White among the north- 
ern tribes, and at Hdka for the southern tribes. 

The Shan States remained peaceful and undisturbed, 
except for a petty abortive insurrection in North Theinni, 
which was promptly stopped, on Kun Yi, the pretender, 
being killed in action. The whole of these States were 
now entirely garrisoned by Military Police. In the 
southern and eastern Shan States the chief events of 
the year were the submission of the Sawbwa of Keng- 
tung, the most important of the Shan States lying to the 
east of the Salween river, to the Superintendent, and the 
work carried out by the Anglo-Siamese Commission 
under Mr. Ney Elias, CLE., appointed by the Govern- 
ment of India for the settlement of various territorial 
questions on the south-eastern frontier of the Shan States 
and Karenni. At the time of the expedition against 
Eastern Karenni in 1888-89, Siamese troops occupied 
tracts east of the Salween, which had long been inhabited 
by settlers from Eastern Karenni. This territory was 
claimed as part of the Siamese province of Chiengmai 
(Zimme) ; new claims were also advanced to the trans- 
Salween tracts of Maingmaw and Mesakon, appanages 
of the State of Mawkme ; and old claims, previously 
asserted, were maintained in respect of four small 
States which had been made over to the Maingpan 
Sawbwa late in 1888. The points in dispute were to 
have been investigated by a joint commission, but finally 
the Siamese Government declined to join in the enquiry, 
which had accordingly to be carried out ex parte. The 
two appanages were restored to Mawkme, and the four 
small States made over to the Sawbwa of Maingpan and 
Maingtun, while a report on the more important territorial 
question was submitted for the orders of the Government 
of India. It was not until 1892 that Sawlawi, chief of 
Eastern Karenni, was, with the concurrence of Siam, re- 
instated in his trans-Salween possessions. 

In March, 1890, Sir Charles Crosthwaite, Chief Com- 
missioner of Burma, visited the Shan States for the first 
time and held a durbar at Fort Stedman, which was 



attended by nearly all the cis-Salween chiefs and the 
notables of the eastern and southern States. 

The only fresh legislation relating to Upper Burma 
was the Land and Revenue Regulation, 1889, declaring 
the law regarding rights of land, providing for the 
assessment and collection of revenue, and formulating a 
complete system of revenue law, based as far as possible 
on the ascertained customs of the country. 

By the end of 1 890 the work of pacification through- 
out Upper Burma was complete, and there were fewer 
violent crimes there than in Lower Burma during the 
year 1890-91. Reductions ir. the strength of the gar- 
rison could, however, not yet be ventured on, as much 
still remained to be done in the frontier tracts. Three 
battalions of military police, numbering over 3,000 men, 
were converted from frontier levies into battalions of the 
native army, and further conversions, affecting other 
3,000, were under consideration and soon to be sanc- 
tioned. Major- General Gordon made over charge of 
the Burma command on 31st May, 1890, to Brigadier- 
General Wolseley, who was relieved on 26th October 
by Major-General R. C. Stewart, C. B. The troops 
amounted to 18,763, while the Military Police numbered 
16,506, representing a total effective strength of 35,269 

During the first year after the annexation the crushing 
of organized rebellion and of armed resistance occupied 
the attention of Government so fully that it was not 
possible to introduce regular methods and systematic 
administration, but in the succeeding four years every 
district in Upper Burma was gradually reduced to order, 
and organized crime had entirely disappeared from any 
part of the whole province. The only remaining elements 
of disturbance were the wild tribes inhabiting the forest- 
clad hills of the northern frontier districts. Before the 
end of 1890 no pretender, no rebel, or no dacoit Bo 
having any considerable following was to be found 
throughout what had formerly been the kingdom of Ava. 
All such leaders who had not surrendered or died, or 
else had not been killed or captured, were in hiding and 
deserted by their former adherents. Except among the 



Chin and the Kachin hill-tribes, district officers could 
move about freely without escorts. In every case in 
which organized rebellion or dacoity was suppressed, 
terms were offered to all except the principal leaders and 
men personally concerned in atrocious crimes ; and in 
almost every district in Upper Burma large numbers of 
released or surrendered dacoits were living under sur- 
veillance, but otherwise unmolested, and engaging in 
peaceful pursuits. The powerful and efficient body of 
Military Police was in course of transformation into 
battalions of the regular native army ; civil police had 
been organized in every district, and real progress was 
being made in the prevention and detection of crime ; 
and the district administration had been gradually 
assimilated to that obtaining in the older portion of the 
province. But no encouragement was given to the 
natural tendency of officers to attempt to arrange district 
work after the pattern to which they had been accustomed 
in Lower Burma. While purifying corrupt methods and 
removing barbarous enormities, the maintenance of the 
spirit of the Burmese administration was desired ; the 
customs and prejudices of the new subjects were inter- 
fered with as little as possible ; and particular care was 
taken not to attempt to force upon them a brand-new 
system of administration, inconsistent with their national 
genius or habits. Special attention was given to the 
maintenance of the village community system, which was 
at the earliest possible opportunity placed on a secure 
legal basis. In training the necessary subordinate staff 
to provide for the administration of justice and the 
collection of revenue, full use was made of loyal Burmese 
officers, many of whom rendered conspicuous service. 
Government public offices had been erected at the head- 
quarters of districts, and suitable jails were constructed ; 
while the judicial administration was under the control 
of an experienced officer. In the larger towns a simple 
system of municipal government was introduced, but no 
attempt was made to extend the principle of self-govern- 
ment beyond the limits which the circumstances of the 
newly - acquired province rendered necessary. The 
educational needs of the country were examined, and 

145 L 


steps were being gradually taken to strengthen and 
improve, while abstaining from needless interference 
with, the simple elementary tuition in reading, writing, 
and arithmetic at monasteries by the gradual introduc- 
tion of a sound and practical scheme of public instruction. 
Dispensaries were open at the headquarters of every 
district, and during 1890 medical relief was afforded to 
nearly 100,000 patients, representing more than one- 
thirty-fifth of the total population. The revenue system 
had been examined and put on a satisfactory footing, 
with the result that it had increased to about 1 13 lacs of 
rupees (^753-333) during 1890, or some 8 lacs (253.333) 
more than the largest revenue which had ever found its 
way in any year into the royal treasury at Mandalay ; 
and this increase was effected without imposing any 
fresh taxation or burden on the people, although during 
the same time some obnoxious and oppressive imposts 
had been abolished. In the dry central zone — where 
denudation of the original forests in times past now 
very seriously affects the rainfall, the humidity of the air, 
and the water-storage capacity of the soil, where agri- 
culture is consequently precarious, and where scarcity 
often amounting almost to famine is liable to occur to a 
greater or less extent every few years — the irrigation 
works of former days, which had long since been allowed 
to fall into disrepair, were examined with a view to the 
repair of the old works and the construction of a new 
irrigation system. The forests, containing the richest 
supplies of teak timber in the world, which had been 
worked in a most wasteful manner during the King's 
time, had already been brought under systematic 
management by the Forest Department, and consider- 
able progress was being made in their examination and 
survey, and in the selection of the better portions for the 
formation of permanent State Reserves. 

The material welfare of the people and the develop- 
ment of the natural resources of the country had mean- 
while not been neglected. Next to the establishment of 
peace, the most urgent need was the improvement of 
means of conimunication. There was a large expendi- 
ture on public works. The extension of the railway 



from Toungoo to Mandalay provided the best possible 
means of communication through a land-locked part of 
the province, enabled food supplies to be easily poured 
into the dry central zone liable to suffer from scarcity, 
and gave the population there the means of going away 
and settling in other districts where agriculture was less 
precarious. So peaceful were the tracts between Man- 
dalay and the old frontier that passenger trains were 
now running through from Rangoon by night as well as 
by day. To the west of the Irrawaddy the construction 
of a line, begun in 1889-90, was being rapidly extended 
northwards through fertile tracts rich in natural resources. 
The open season of 1889-90 also saw the commencement 
of reconnaissance surveys for a railway running east- 
wards from Mandalay across the Shan plateau, through 
Thibaw and Lashio, onwards towards the Kunlon ferry 
on the Salween, whence important trade routes branched 
northwards, eastwards, and southwards into Yunnan and 
the eastern and the Siamese Shan States. Well-aligned 
cart roads were opened out from Meiktila to Fort Sted- 
man, the capital of the southern Shan States, and from 
Mandalay to Thibaw on the way to Lashio, the head- 
quarters of the northern Shan States ; while Mogok, the 
centre of the ruby mining industry, was similarly brought 
in touch with Thabeitkyin on the Irrawaddy river. 
Telegraphic communication had existed from Mandalay 
to Rangoon in the Burmese time, but the line had to be 
reconstructed and maintained in spite of continual in- 
terruptions occasioned by dacoits, who cut up the wire 
to use as slugs. Now a network of lines connected the 
heart of the Chin hills on the west, the centre of the 
Shan States on the east, and Bhamo and Mogaung on 
the north, with the lines converging on Rangoon and 
extending everywhere throughout the older part of the 
province. By the end of 1890 there were nearly 4,000 
miles of telegraph lines and some fifty offices open in 
Upper Burma, and over 700,000 messages were con- 
veyed across them during that year. The work done 
by the Telegraph Department contributed greatly to the 
progress of the civil and military administration. 

In the settlement of frontier affairs equally good pro- 



gress had also been made. Before the annexation, and 
for about a year after it, the Shan States were in a 
chaotic state of anarchy ; but now all the chiefs who 
owed allegiance to the King of Ava had tendered their 
submission and become peaceful subjects of the British 
Government, whose influence had been extended across 
the Salween river so as to bring Kengtung, the most 
important of the trans-Salween States, into subordinate 
alliance. Internecine warfare had been stopped, and the 
paths of peace were open leading towards a prosperity 
hitherto unknown. Eastern Karenni had been brought 
under British protection, and satisfactory arrangements 
made for its administration. On the northern and north- 
western fringes of the province the Kachin tribes had 
learned by drastic lessons that raiding and acts of violence 
were no longer to be permitted ; while the more im- 
portant of the Chin tribes on the western border had by 
similar punitive treatment been brought to tender their 
submission, and arrangements were being made for the 
permanent occupation of their country, for the enforce- 
ment of administrative authority, and for opening it up 
by means of good lines of communication. 

These admirable results were attained within five 
years of the annexation of Upper Burma, or in about 
half the time that had been required for the pacification 
of Lower Burma after the second Burmese war. When 
Sir Charles Crosthwaite handed over the Chief Com- 
missionership of Burma to his successor, Sir Alexander 
Mackenzie, on loth December, 1890, after nearly four 
years of the heaviest responsibility that had fallen upon 
any of the Indian administrators of that time, the founda- 
tions of future prosperity and happiness were securely 
laid for a people who had borne, with admirable patience, 
contentment, and passive fortitude the misfortunes 
brought upon them by the misgovernment of their King 
and his Court, and by the crimes and barbarities of their 
own fellow-countrymen. Since the days of the Indian 
Mutiny, in 1857-59, neither civilians nor soldiery had 
had such calls made upon their strength, energy, endur- 
ance, and devotion to duty as during these five anxious and 
eventful years of the pacification and settlement of Upper 



Burma ; and these calls were responded to in a manner 
befitting the heirs of the noble heritage to which English- 
men are born, and worthy of the best and noblest 
traditions of the Civil and Military Services in India. 

What the third Burmese war and the pacification of 
Upper Burma actually cost in money, incurred on purely 
military expenditure, may partly be seen from the table 
given below. Apart from the special expenditure, the 
normal military charges incurred by Burma have been 
raised from a little over ^190,000 for Lower Burma during 
the year 1884-85 to somewhat over ;if 600,000 a year now 
for the whole province. But the territory to be protected 
has been increased by nearly 150 per cent, and the 
frontiers have been advanced so as now to march with 
those of Siam, French Indo-China, and China beyond 
the new territories acquired to the north-east. Regarded 
from a financial point of view, the conquest was abnor- 
mally cheap at the price. The garrison on 31st March, 
1900, consisted of only 10,324 troops (2,811 European 
and 7,513 Native), but this was about 2,000 below the 
normal strength of the previous year. 

The war, and the five years 

occupied in the work of 


The period of transition 
to settled administration. 

The normal garrison 
of Burma. 









1887-88 1 




635,600 1 
(not obtainable) 





) (not ob- 
) tainable) 

1 The figures for 1887-88 are still regarded as confidential. 

" The decrease in 1887 to 1890 was due to the formation of the 
Military Police, maintained from civil expenditure ; and the increase 
beginning again in 1891 is due to the conversion of several battalions 
of Military Police into regular troops as Burma regiments. 

3 '* It is not possible to furnish the figures . . . showing separately 
the military expenditure incurred in Burma . . . the military expendi- 
ture is classified only under the heads of the four commands, viz. : 
Punjab, Bengal, Madras, and Bombay" (India Office, f. 1022, dated 
5 March, 1901). 


chapter VI 


" y^HE Burmese Sovereign of the Rising Sun who rules 
over the country of Thundpardnta and the country 
of Tdmbadipd, with all the other great do7ninions and 
countries, and all the Umbrella-bearing Chiefs of the 
East, whose Glory is exceeding great and excellent, the 
Master of the King Elephant, Sadddn, the Lord of many 
White Elephants, the Lord of Life, the eininently just 
Ruler'' — so ran the descriptive legend heading all royal 
letters— was a despotic ruler. The King's power was 
absolute : but the administration of the kingdom of Ava, 
extending to about 120,000 square miles, scantily popu- 
lated with some three and a half millions of inhabitants, 
was carried on by means of Ministers whose number, 
rank, and functions were defined by constitutional pre- 
cedent. The details relating to their appointment and 
duties were embodied in a book called the Lawka 
Pyuha or Inyon Saok, which likewise described with 
minute detail the ceremonies and etiquette of the court, 
and might be considered the official code of Sumptuary 

Immediately after the close of the second Burmese 
war King Pagdn was deposed by his brother, the Mindon 
Prince, who, occupying the throne in 1853, ruled the 
kingdom with a considerable degree of enlightenment 
till his death in 1878. King Mindon, or Min Taydgyi, 
" the great lawgiver," had strong commercial instincts, 
which were allied to a desire to bring his country more 
in a line with the position of the civilized nations of the 
West. He was, for a ruler of Ava, a humane man. In 
place of putting the Pagdn Min to death, according to 



ancient custom with regard to rivals in Burma, as in 
most eastern countries, the deposed monarch's Hfe was 
spared. He lived in his own house ; he survived his 
successor on the throne ; and he finally died a natural 
death in his bed. King Mindon was an enlightened 
ruler. Though he professed no love for the British, he 
recognized their power and kept on friendly terms with 
them. So far as was compatible with the maintenance 
of his own autocratic power, he was anxious to introduce 
Western ideas and civilization into his kingdom. He 
deputed envoys to Europe in order to study the indus- 
trial arts, and sent young men of good families to Eng- 
land, France, and Italy to learn the languages and 
customs of those countries. Though his zeal was not 
always tempered by discretion, he did much to improve 
the revenues and promote the prosperity of his country. 

The wisest of all the Burmese monarchs, Mindon kept 
the reins of government firmly in his own hands through- 
out the whole of the quarter of a century of his rule. 
Though he held sway over much less territory than his 
forefathers had done, yet he was deeply anxious to main- 
tain untarnished their full regal splendour. 

At the Court of Ava there were two classes of Bur- 
mese Ministers. The authority and the responsibility of 
one class were restricted to the palace, somewhat in the 
manner of officers of the Royal Household, whilst within 
the other class were included all the important administra- 
tive offices of the State. During the latter days of the 
kingdom of Ava, however, these original distinctions had 
become materially obliterated for all practical purposes, 
though the two classes of officials were still maintained 
in separate categories so far as mere nomenclature was 

The first class comprised the officials of the Byedaik 
(literally "bachelors' quarters"), the Privy Council or 
Secret Department of the Burmese Court, whose public 
offices were located in a part of the northern side of the 
palace which had formerly been allotted to the King's 
young men, and to which the King used sometimes to 
go in order to see the royal elephants at exercise. The 
second category formed the Hkttdaw or Great Council 



of State, whose functions combined those of a Legislative 
Chamber, a Ministerial Cabinet, and a Supreme Court of 
Civil and Criminal Justice. The State Council Chamber — 
"for both the Council and the Council Hall were included 
in the word " Hlutciaw'' meaning literally " the place of 
release," or ''place du congi cCilire'' — was situated in the 
outer court or esplanade between the Tagdni, the " Red 
Gate," or royal entrance to the inner portions of the 
palace on the eastern side, and the outer gate of the 
palace enclosure. The offices of the various Ministers 
of the Hint were enclosed near at hand within the same 

The King was the nominal head of the Hlutdaw, but 
on all ordinary occasions its meetings were presided over 
by whomsoever happened for the time to be the most in- 
fluential of the four Mingyi (" great rulers ") or Wungyi 
(" those bearing the great burden "). These were the 
highest officials in the kingdom, occupying posts some- 
what similar to those filled by our Cabinet Ministers or 
principal Secretaries of State. The offices were not 
hereditary, being merely conferred from time to time 
by the King. Each of these four chief Ministers had 
his own portfolio or department, though at the same 
time there was no hard and fast line drawn as to the 
distribution of the work coming before the council for 
disposal. Each Mingyi might have all sorts of adminis- 
trative work to investigate and dispose of, and each had 
his own separate departmental seal to affix to orders and 
palm-leaf correspondence. The business demanding his 
attention might range from questions relating to agri- 
culture, forestry, finance or politics, up to the decision of 
civil or criminal law cases, and might at times involve mili- 
tary duty even to the utmost extent of personally taking 
the field in charge of an army. 

Lower in rank than the four Mingyi came two other 
high officials charged with the performance of very mis* 
cellaneous duties, as is almost implied in their designa- 
tions, the Myinzugyi Wun, or " governor of the chief 
cavalry regiment," and the Athiwun, or " governor of 
those who are not in the royal service." 

A grade lower still came the four Wundank, the 



Undersecretaries of State, or " sharers of the burden " of 
the Mingyi, each of whom had one or more departments 
of official business allotted to his care, here also without 
any rigid lines being prescribed as to the distribution of 
work. This title of Assistant was also often bestowed 
honoris causd on provincial officials such as Governors 
of Townships, much in the same way as appointments 
are made in Britain to the Privy Council. This mark 
of royal favour neither involved or authorized attendance 
at the Hlut or Council of State. 

All of these ten highest officials — four Mingyi, two 
Wuft, and four Wundauk — in addition to possessing 
various other grandiloquent titles, were usually known 
by some territorial appellation having reference either to 
a province or to a large district or town made over to 
their special administration. The whole kingdom was 
subdivided into districts called Myo or " townships," 
which were handed over to these and to less exalted 
officials for administrative purposes. Each such official, 
no matter what his higher title might be, was called a 
Myosdy or " eater of a township " — a term which very 
graphically hits off the manner in which the bad ones 
among them squeezed the district of all the revenue it 
was possible to lay hands on from a submissive, peaceful 
and helpless peasantry. The great officers of the Hlut- 
daw, resident close to the main gate on the eastern side 
of the palace in Mandalay, could, of course, only perform 
their duties as Governors of districts by means of depu- 
ties, who remitted to them enough to pay the royal 
revenue demand and to maintain themselves and their 
establishments. All the Governors of these townships 
had to pay in fixed annual contributions to the Shwedaik 
or Royal Treasury, but whatever they could raise be- 
yond this, by taxation or otherwise, they retained for 
themselves. It was in this manner that they were able 
to " eat a township." Each Myosd or " eater of a town- 
ship," was in reality a local magnate paying tribute either 
to his overlord the Mingyi, or to their suzerain the 
King of Ava ; and within his own district he had enor- 
mous power and influence. The vast distances of many 
of the towns from Mandalay, the capital, the entire want 



of good roads, or of any other means of communication 
except along the great water highway, the Irrawaddy 
river, and the difficulties of travelling by jungle tracks 
for the greater part of each year, all helped to strengthen 
the semi-independence of their position. They were un- 
controlled by telegraph lines or daily postal service, and 
no public press existed to indicate any opinions held by 
those under their rule. Instructions from the central 
authority were often treated with indifference, and orders 
from Mandalay did not necessarily carry the same weight 
as attaches to similar missives in more civilized countries. 
Even the execution of royal orders could sometimes only 
be relied on as far as they could be carried out by armed 

Until the kingdom of Burma began to be shorn of its^ 
coast provinces by wars with the British;;^ach of the prin- 
cipal provinces of Rangoon, Tenasserim, Martaban, and 
Arakan was ruled by a Wun or Governor, who was in 
reality a Viceroy appointed by the King with full civil, 
judicial, fiscal, and military powers. So long as he re- 
mitted the full amount of revenue to which his province 
was assesse4 he was responsible only to the central 
Government A Provincial Council, consisting of Myo 
Sayd or " tow'h-writers," Nakd7idaw or "receivers of 
royal orders," and Sitke or " chiefs of war," met daily 
in the courthouse and made reports to the GovernoJ>_ 
The other chief officials at the seats of provincial govern- 
ment were the Taung/imu or "jailer," the Aydtgaung 
or " heads of quarters " of the town, and the Tagdhnii^ 
or "warden of the gates.'^The governorship was divided 
into townships, each in charge of a township officer who 
was called Myo Ok or " ruler of the town," if he were 
only appointed to the office from time to time, but was 
known as Myo Tkugyi, or "mayor of the town," if he_ 
held office by hereditary right. - The Viceroy of Pegu had' 
more extensive powers than any of the other Governors, 
but he could not interfere in any way with their authority 
in their own jurisdiction. In addition to the usual 
staff he had the special assistance of an Akunwun or 
" revenue officer," 2Si Akaukwtui or " collector of customs," 
and a Y^mu7i or " conservator of the port," whose jurisdic- 



tion extended for a considerable distance inland on the 
river Irrawaddy and in the country situated within t he 
immediate vicinity of its banks. Besides the fixed revenue 
demand levied direct from householders, there were many 
imposts of various sorts, including taxes on ploughs, on 
palm trees, and on brokerage, transit dues, dues on sale 
of cattle, on produce, and on fisheries, fees on lawsuits 
and criminal fines, and special remittances annually as 
presents for the King. The local officials received no 
regular salary, but were paid by a portion of these fees 
and dues, so that their interests lay in raising them as 
high as they could or dared. They had just to feath er 
their nests as they best could. Whenever men were 
called out to perform any particular duty, or to protect 
the frontier, they had to be supported by the tract in 

question ; and, finally, special royal demands had to be 

met from time to time. Of these the most excessive was 
probably that of thirty-three and one-third ticals of silver 
per household levied by King Bodaw Paya in 1798, 
which took two years to collect, and brought in sixty 
lacs of rupees (^600,000) to the royal treasury. 

When walking abroad, a red umbrella was borne above 
an official, while his residence was marked by having a 
cross-bar over the gate and the privilege of having it 
painted red. 

As the amounts fixed as tribute were comparatively 
light it did not necessarily follow that the Myosd ground 
down and oppressed the people in his township ; but, of 
course, the various districts ruled over by the deputies of 
the high officials of the Hlut had practically to satisfy 
the demands of two "town-eaters." To be known as 
possessed of much ready money was to become exposed 
to the danger of being squeezed. This apprehension, no 
doubt, acting in addition to the religious feeling of the 
Buddhist and the desire to acquire benefits in the next 
state of existence, impelled many, who might otherwise 
have accumulated wealth, to be lavish in works of " re- 
ligious merit," such as building monasteries, pagodas, 
shrines, bridges, etc., and to spend surplus cash in feast- 
ing priests or entertaining the country-side with public 
theatrical performances. In a state of society such as 



existed in Upper Burma under Burmese rule, the repu- 
tation of having money must, in a district governed by 
a grasping, rapacious, or unconscientious official, have 
always carried with it a sense of insecurity and even of 
personal danger. The very obvious disadvantages of 
such a system became fully apparent to King Minddn, 
who abolished it and decreed that officials of all classes, 
both civil and military, should be paid by fixed salaries, 
while the plan of levying definite and regular taxes was 
at the same time introduced. This was, however, only a 
theoretical reorganization. The salaries were never paid 
punctually, and often not at all ; hence the innovations 
were of little practical effect. But, in any case, the title 
of Myosd was retained by the district Governors as long 
as the kingdom of Ava existed. 

In the Hhitdaw the authority of the four Mingyi 

I or Wiingyi was paramount, though it was partially 
I shared by the Wundauk or Assistants. The King was 
I nominally the President of the Council, or in his absence 
1 the heir apparent or other member of the royal family : 
I but, practically, the Prime Minister for the time being 

\ presided. The latter bore the title Kinwun Mingyi, 

vor " governor of the guard-houses." Under the term 
Kin were comprised not only all octroi stations round the 
capital and the chief towns and the "guard-houses " of all 
descriptions, but also the places at which customs dues 
were levied, and the military posts commanding all the 
several trade routes crossing the administrative frontier. 
Hence the honorary title borne by the Prime Minister 
combined the idea of " Warden of the Marches " with 
"Minister of Customs and Revenues." His departmental 
seal was a " scorpion " (Ki?i). 

All important business was submitted to the Mingyi 
first of all, a large number of subordinates relieving them, 
however, from the tediousness of troublesome details. 
It might even happen, and as a matter of fact such occa- 
sions were not infrequent, that for the time being a Wun- 
dauk enjoyed the royal confidence in larger measure than 
any of the Alingyi; and in such case his influence with 
the latter, his direct official superiors, was always very 
great. These eight Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries 



of State, together with the eight Atwinwun, the Privy 
Counsellors of the ByMaik or " Ministers of the In- 
terior," who will be more especially referred to shortly, 
formed the Ministry of the kingdom of Ava. 

The chief officials in the departmental secretariats of 
the Hlutdaw were the four Nakdndaw, the " royal 
listeners " or " receivers of royal orders," who were 
charged with the duty of conveying communications to 
and from the King and the Council of State. As 
insignia of their high office they bore large notebooks 
with gilt covers within which the written orders or 
counsels were inscribed. 

Next to these in rank came the Say^dawgyi or 
"great chief clerks." Of these there were originally 
four, but in course of time the number was increased to 
about twenty. They performed multifarious duties, and 
were really officers of considerable importance. They 
practically did the bulk of the executive work and of the 
general business ; and as all the details were arranged by 
them, little or no business of any sort could be gone 
through in the Hlutdaw without their assistance. In 
addition to this, they held all preliminary investigations 
concerning any judicial matters of importance, and gave 
judgment in minor civil or criminal suits, subject to the 
approval and confirmation of the Mingyi. 

The four Ameindaiuyd or " writers of the great 
orders " ranked next in dignity and position. Their duty 
was to prepare and issue the orders of Government after 
all the necessary preliminary steps had been duly taken. 
The handwriting of these Clerks of the Great Council 
was very beautiful, and their inscriptions of royal orders 
were really works of art — an art that is now likely to 
become entirely lost. 

After these came the Athonsay^ (lit. " writers of use ") 
or Clerks of Works, to whom were entrusted the con- 
struction and the repairs of all public buildings. Below 
these, again, came two classes of correspondence clerks, 
the Ahmddawyd or " recorders of orders," who drafted 
the orders and letters to be issued by the Council of 
State, and the Awiyauk (lit. " distant arrivals "), who 
received and read letters coming from a distance before 



submitting them to the Ministers. Letters for the King 
were received by two special ceremonial officers called 
Thandawgdn, one of whose particular functions was to 
open the letters of apology received from all such 
feudatory Chiefs, Ministers, and other high officials as 
could not, or would not, personally attend and do 
homage to the King at each of the Kaddw Pwe or " beg 
pardon festivals " which formed the royal levees held 
three times a year in the palace at Mandalay. These 
constituted the chief ceremonial gatherings of the year, 
when tributary Princes from the Shan States, Ministers, 
members of the royal family, and all court officials 
appeared in the gorgeous apparel prescribed for their 
rank or office, and when tribute and presents were sub- 
mitted to the King in the great open Hall of Audience 
surmounted by the lofty, glittering, and graceful nine- 
tiered spire of the My^nan, held to be " the centre of 
the universe," whose apex towers above the spot upon 
which stands the Lion throne, the chief of the eight 
thrones erected at various places within the palace 

Still lower down in the scale of officials connected 
with the Council of State were three classes of cere- 
monial officers. The highest of these were the Let- 
saungsayd or " clerks of the presents," who read out 
the lists of the offerings made to the King at the royal 
levies. Next came the Yonzaw or " masters of cere- 
monies," who had charge of all the arrangements con- 
nected with durbars and audiences of the King. They 
furnished the necessary intimation to the officers whose 
attendance might either be specially commanded or was 
required in the usual rotation, communicated to them 
the nature of the business to be transacted, informed 
them as to what particular kind of dress they were to 
appear in, and gave any other requisite instructions. 
The last or lowest class consisted of the Thissddawyd 
or "recorders of great oaths," who administered the 
oath of fealty to all who were about to enter the royal 
service. ^ Such enlistment took place under a prescribed 
ceremonial. After the oath had been written down on 
paper, it was repeated verbally in front of an image of 



Gaudama by the candidate for employment. The paper 
was then burned, and the ashes were put into a cup of 
water. After this had been stirred with a small stick 
containing models, all tied up together, of the five 
weapons of warfare used by the Burmese — bow, spear, 
sword, musket, and cannon — the solution was finally 
drunk by the person taking the ThissA or " oath.",^_ 

The highest officers of the Byedaik, the Privy" 
Council or Secret Department of the Court, were the 
eight Atwinwun or " Ministers of the Interior." Their 
chief duties were to communicate the business of the 
Hlutdaiv to the King ; but they were likewise charged 
with the transaction of general affairs relating to the 
interior of the palace. So far as precedence was con- 
cerned, they ranked below the four Mingyi, but 
somewhat in advance of the four Wundauk or Assistant 
Secretaries of State, though the relative positions of 
these two different classes of officers depended to a very 
considerable extent on the amount of favour bestowed 
on the given individuals by the King. 

These eight Atwinwun of the Byedaik slept in turn 
within the palace, two at a time, along with an equal 
number of the high officials of the Hlutdaw. Thus 
there were always four Ministers at the palace in attend- 
ance on the King. The Atwinwun went to office in 
the Byedaik at seven o'clock in the morning, and were 
relieved at three o'clock on the following day. About 
nine o'clock in the morning a Mingyi and a Wundauk 
came in from the Hlutdaw, and for about half an hour 
or so discussed with the two Atwinwun any business 
under consideration before accompanying them to the 
royal presence. Such ministerial lev^e was held by tlie 
King every morning. Each afternoon another informal 
audience was given by the King, which was termed the 
Boskii because military officers {Bo) were then per- 
mitted to accompany the Atwinwun into the royal 
chamber. About eight o'clock every evening a third 
reception took place, when members of the Hlutdaw 
again presented themselves before the King in company 
with the Atwinwun. It was then, in the still of the 
evening, when, even in the longest days of June, the 



short tropical twilight had long since faded into the dark- 
ness of night and the fierce heat of the day had passed 
away, that the general affairs of the State were quietly 
discussed from various points of view and settled, whilst 
all business of a more purely formal or of any special 
character was disposed of during the daytime. On all 
sides of the palace there were small open lounges or 
SamSk surmounted by spires of several tiers of roofs, 
while the quaint and fantastic gardens and palm groves 
immediately to the south-west of the royal chambers 
afforded a cool and pleasant retreat in the evening where 
the breeze from the south could best be enjoyed. Here 
paths meandered along the edges of narrow artificial 
watercourses, crossed here and there by quaint rustic 
bridges, while steps led through grottoes and up and 
down curiously contorted and grotesque rocks made 
artificially with Portland cement. Even now, when this 
little royal garden is no longer kept up as it once was, it 
is the pleasantest spot in Mandalay during the long 
arid and hot season of the year. 

Next in rank after the Atwinwun in the Secret 
Department of the Court came the Thandawzin or 
" heralds," who were at the same time charged with the 
performance of secretarial business. Their chief duty 
consisted in attendance at audiences for the purpose of 
noting the King's orders and forwarding them to the 
Hlutdaw or Great Council for inscription ; but they also 
discharged various ceremonial offices, such as carrying 
forth royal letters in state from the palace. 

After these heralds came the Shnitunhmu or " lamp- 
lighters" of the palace, who were at the same time 
responsible for performing the more important duties 
of keeping a list of all persons sleeping inside the palace 
and of intimating to those concerned when it might be 
their turn to have the privilege of remaining out all 
night beyond the palace enclosure. If any one whose 
name was not on these lamplighters' lists happened to 
be found within the stockade and the main gates of the 
palace after dark, grave suspicion always fell upon him 
or her, and punishment usually followed. To obtain 
entrance after dark was difficult, unless the individual 

1 60 


in question was entitled by position to exercise such a 
privilege. King Mindon retained a number of spies, 
called Ataukdazv or " royal assistants," to keep him 
secretly informed of the illegal acts and general doings 
of his Ministers and provincial Governors. Finding 
these spies unreliable, he looked about for others in 
whom he could place more trust, and came to the con- 
clusion that he would best be served by monks who had 
cast off their yellow robes and re-entered the world of 
men. Enrolling one thousand men of this class i^Lu- 
byandaw, " the great returned "), he thought it might be 
a good thing to issue medals to those of them who dis- 
tinguished themselves by meritorious service. These 
medals, intended to be worn round the neck like a 
locket, were to bear the effigy of a Chinthd or " lion " on 
one side, and the inscription Vazamatika, " the King's 
seal," on the other. But the King died before any were 
issued. What may probably be a unique specimen of this 
medal I had the good fortune to pick up in Mandalay 
bazaar, in 1891, for the price of one rupee. 

The lowest grade among the officials of the Byedaik 
consisted of the Teindeinyanhmu or "caretakers" of 
the palace furniture, draperies and other appointments, 
whose functions were menial rather than administrative. 

Apart from the Hlutdaw and the Byedaik, the Great and 
the Privy Councils of the State, were the officers of the 
Shwedaik, the "gold house" or Treasury, within which 
were also contained the State archives and records of 
various kinds, such as the genealogies of all hereditary 
officials and the lists of the royal artificers, whose offices 
were likewise hereditary, the head of each family being 
one of the permanent Treasury officials. These latter 
comprised the Shwedaik Wun or Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, the Shwedaik S6 or " Governor of the 
Treasury," the Shwedaik Kyat or " Superintendent," 
the Shwedaik Sayd or " clerk of the Treasury," and the 
Shwedaik Thawgaing or " keeper of the key of the 

When King Mindon swept away the wasteful and 
oppressive system of allowing districts to be squeezed 
by the " eaters of townships," and substituted for this 

161 M 


ancient custom the levy of regular taxes and the pay- 
ment of fixed salaries to officials of all descriptions, the 
village community system was adopted as the basis of 
the revenue administration of the Kingdom. Teak 
timber, earth-oil, and precious stones of all kinds were 
included in the royal monopolies, and all the revenue 
from these rich stores was supposed to go direct into the 
privy purse. Under this reformed system the principal 
item of the State revenue was the Thdtham^dd^ or 
house tax, which was levied in the form of a house tax, 
but was in principle somewhat of the nature of an indirect 
income tax. It was not a Latxd Revenue demand in the 
true sense of this term. It was levied on all classes 
throughout the whole country, with the exception of the 
inhabitants of the royal city of Mandalay, who appear 
to have been exempt from direct taxation of any kind. 
The largest amount of revenue that ever reached 
King Thibaw's treasury in any one year was about 
I GO to 105 lacs of rupees (about ;!^700,ooo) ; and of 
this total between 25 and 35 lacs (about ;^ 166,666 to 
-^233,333) were the proceeds of customs, monopolies, 
and transit dues. Classified as to their remunerative- 
ness, the sources of royal income were Thdthamddd, 
monopolies and imposts, rent of royal lands, irrigation 
taxes, and tribute from the Shan States. 

In the assessment and collection of this Thdthamddd 
or house tax every district and town, except the capital, 
was classified according to its situation, wealth, and 
prosperity : and the total assessment for each such unit 
was based upon this classification, so as to range from 
about 6 to 10 rupees (9 to 15 shillings) per household. 
But in the vast majority of cases the maximum rate of 
10 rupees was fixed, so that the total demand falling on 
a village of 50 houses would be 500 rupees (^33^). 

^ Originally the term Thdtham'edd is said to have been Thattamedd, 
meaning revenue levied by royal authority once in seven years (from 
Saiiamd, "seven"). Subsequently such special demand was made 
only once every ten years {Daihatnd, " ten "). Ultimately it became 
an annual demand. It is not a tithe or tenth part, as might easily be 
imagmed from the obvious similarity of the name with the PaU word 
for ten. 



The highest assessment was levied upon villages situated 
on rich stretches of fertile alluvial lands lying within 
easy reach of the rivers forming the vast silent highways 
along which all surplus produce was borne to market ; 
for the Irrawaddy river and its tributaries, many of 
which are themselves worthy of being ranked as large 
rivers, formed the main arteries of trade and com- 

The average quality of the soil and the proximity or 
remoteness of given tracts from river communication 
were the chief considerations which mainly influenced 
the authorities in Mandalay in determining the incidence 
of taxation in a general way. But the assessment might 
vary from year to year, and it never became of the 
nature of any Settlement extending at fixed rates over 
lengthy periods. The basis for such a Settlement as 
was introduced under Akbar by Todar Mull in India 
had been laid by King Bodaw Payd in 1783 a.d. (1145 
Burmese era), when the Shwedaik or Burmese Dooms- 
day Book was compiled, containing a complete record 
of the population and resources of the empire. But the 
genius of the Burmese rulers did not run on similar 
lines to that of the great Mohammedan conquerors of 

A bad harvest through insufficient rainfall during the 
south-west monsoon in the summer months, or the 
destruction of a village by fire, or any other of the 
numerous causes which might affect the ability of the 
villages to satisfy the demand of the tax levied, was 
duly taken into account in assessing this Thdthmn^dd, 
In order to guide the revenue officials at Mandalay in 
such matters, fortnightly reports were submitted by the 
district officials regarding any local circumstances likely 
to affect the assessment. 

This revenue demand was collected either by the 
local officers or else by specially appointed tax collectors 
called Thugyi or " headmen," the procedure varying 
sometimes from year to year, and in other cases accord- 
ing to the locality. Instructions under the royal 
authority were issued from the Hlutdaw to the officials 
concerned, the incidence of taxation per house being laid 


down for each local unit of assessment, and the exemp- 
tions to be granted being specified in detail. 

Provided thus with the tax lists, the collector levied 
the prescribed contributions during the months of April 
and May, after the winter crops had been harvested and 
when inland communication from village to village was 
easiest. On arrival at each town or village he 
enumerated the houses. Multiplying this number by 
the rate fixed per house, he easily arrived at the total 
demand to be satisfied. On receipt of this revenue 
assessment the Ywdlugyi or "village elders" met to- 
gether in conclave, usually sitting coram Publico on a 
wooden dais erected under the shade of some large and 
spreading tree in the middle of the village ; and here 
they arranged among themselves the amount to be con- 
tributed by each individual householder towards the 
entire satisfaction of the demands of the royal Treasury. 
This local readjustment of the incidence of taxation by 
the elders of the people rendered possible the distri- 
bution of the burden in a fairly equitable manner among 
those best able to bear it. Destitute persons and all 
such as were incapacitated from work through age, sick- 
ness, or accident were exempted from paying any share, 
whilst the heads of the village community sought to 
apportion the burden equitably among those most able 
to contribute towards the payment of the full sum 

This was, of course, no difficult matter in villages 
where each man and woman had a most intimate 
acquaintance with the affairs of their fellow villagers. 
Objections would naturally sometimes be made to this 
informal sub-assessment ; and, when these differences of 
opinion could not be amicably settled, the tax collector 
frequently acted as arbitrator to settle the disputes. 
Sometimes village assessors, called Thamddi, were 
appointed by the elders, in which case they were 
solemnly made to swear at the village pagoda that they 
would be just in determining the sum payable by each 
householder. Thus, so far as the Treasury was con- 
cerned, the Thdthamddd was assessed and levied as a 
house tax fixed mainly according to the remunerative- 



ness of the land or of trade ; while in being raised by 
the local headmen it was collected practically in the 
form of an income tax. 

This redistribution of the tax having been made by 
the village elders, the total revenue demand from the 
village was usually paid in cash at once, though some- 
times a concession was given permitting payment in two 
or more instalments. The money thus collected was 
remitted to Mandalay and paid into the Treasury, where 
the taxation lists and the accounts were checked and 
audited. Peculation was, however, rife. The lists of 
houses on which the assessments were based were 
falsified to such an extent that about a fifth of the 
average annual revenue from this source went into the 
pockets of officials instead of into the royal Treasury. 
The prevalence of dacoity during Thibaw's reign also 
affected agricultural interests to such an extent that in 
some localities the revenue from this source had 
dwindled away to a mere fraction of what it had 
formerly been. 

This principle, well suited to the Burmese character 
and a natural evolution of their former political system, 
was wisely retained in force after the annexation of 
Upper Burma in 1886, though the village community 
system upon which Thdtham^dd was based had been 
abandoned in Lower Burma, after the annexation of 
1852, in favour of a capitation tax and of a land tenure 
more consistent with Western ideas. But even Govern- 
ments profit by experience. To have endeavoured to 
overthrow the Thdthamddd in favour of the capitation 
tax and the land tax levied in Lower Burma would have 
been raising up an even stronger opposition to the 
imposition of British rule than that which cost, during 
1886 to 1890, more than enough of good English blood, 
of brave Indian troops, and of poor depreciated rupees. 

The land-tenure system was not very precise or clear. 
The cultivated tracts were either Crown lands, or else 
lands held under various tenures of a feudal nature, or 
private and hereditary lands. There were no great 
landowners save the King. The Crown lands com- 
prised the Ledaw or "royal fields," the Ayddaw or 



"government property," including islands, alluvial form- 
ations, and lands subject to periodical change through 
riverine action, and the Lamaijigmyd or tracts cultivated 
by the royal predial slaves {Lamaing), large colonies of 
whom were located in the irrigated tracts near the 
Nanda and Aungbinle lakes or water reservoirs lying 
to the north-east and south of Mandalay. Except as 
regards the tracts cultivated by the predial slaves, these 
Crown lands were let out to tenants at will, who had to 
pay a fixed proportion of the gross produce, the actual 
amount payable depending on the outturn harvested. 
The rent was fixed by custom and was ordinarily one- 
fourth of the gross produce. The tenant was liable to 
eviction at any moment. In some parts of the country 
evictions were common, while in other parts they were so 
rare that the tenants had practically a fixity of tenure. 

The tenures of feudal nature were those obtaining 
with regard to all Chdmyd or land bestowed by the 
King. It became the property of the recipient, but was 
heritable only if it were so set forth in the royal order. 
Such land was held either on condition of rendering 
public service or as an appanage to, or emolument 
of, a public office held by persons who actually or 
nominally rendered, or were liable to render, service 
to the King. Of tenures thus assigned for actual or 
nominal service there were a great variety and a sur- 
prising number ; but only a few of the principal varieties 
need be noted as of interest. Some lands were assigned 
for life, or for several lives, or for a given period to 
members of the royal family {Minmy^) ; while the produce 
of other lands (IVtmsd) was enjoyed by Governors of 
rural districts (IVun), or it was "eaten" by revenue 
collectors {Tkugyisd), or by the soldiers of the King's 
cavalry (Sisd), or by foot soldiers, or by royal pages, 
boatmen, litter bearers, carriers of the betel box, and 
others employed in the royal service i^Ahtmlddnsd). 
In point of fact, all the royal grants were really nothing 
more than assignments, in actual practice revocable at 
will ; for the sovereign could, and not infrequently did, 
arbitrarily degrade subjects and escheat their possessions. 

The Thugyisdmy^, or land bestowed by the King on 



a revenue collector as an appanage of his office, may be 
considered more closely as a typical instance of the sort 
of feudal tenure obtaining in Upper Burma. If such 
land were mortgaged on account of having to provide 
money for the King, the Thugyis successor in office was 
bound to redeem it. But if mortgaged for the Thugyis 
own private debts, then his children were bound to 
redeem it either for one of themselves, if one of them 
should succeed his father in office, or else for the new 
incumbent. The sale of such land was illegal, and 
consequently void. These revenue collectors were 
usually appointed direct by the King, by whom alone 
they could be dismissed after they had once taken the 
oath of allegiance. They were included as a class 
among the 80,000 Amdt or petty notables of the 
empire. Apart from the royal house of Alaung Payd 
there was no aristocracy whatever in the country. 
Nor was there any leading class. Owing to the 
monastic schools, all were of about the same low level of 
education ; owing to the fear of oppression, there were 
no rich men ; and owing to the sparseness of the 
population, there were no poor. Any man might rise to 
the highest offices under the Crown. 

Private and hereditary lands were neither subject to 
any incidents of service nor to the payment of land reve- 
nue. Waste land or unreclaimed forest jungle could be 
cleared without asking permission {Damdugyd). When 
thus brought under cultivation, it became the private 
property of the person who cleared and tilled it ; and 
it could descend to his heirs or be disposed of by him 
or them, by sale or otherwise. These, together with 
lands granted under the written orders of the King, 
comprised the Bobdbaing or hereditary lands " owned 
by the father and grandfather " of the person in 
possession. Along with these may also be classed the 
Wuttagdn lands assigned to the maintenance of pagodas, 
monasteries, and other religious institutions. For tenants 
of such private lands there was neither fixity of tenure 
nor legal limits as to rent. When let out for cultivation, 
the produce was usually divided in equal shares between 
the owner and his tenant. When private land was sold, 



it was customary, at the time of making it over to the 
purchaser, to walk round the small ridges {Kazinyo) 
dividing the ricefields. The unit of measurement of 
agricultural land was the Pe of 1,200 square cubits, equal 
to 175 acres. In some parts it was roughly computed as 
the area covered by five baskets of paddy sown broad- 

^From what has been said above it will be seen that 
(he village was practically the unit for revenue purposes ; 
andj'the general administration was also based on the 
"vITTage system. Each village had a Thugyi or " head- 
man " elected by its inhabitants, who had specific duties 
to perform and certain responsibilities thrust upon him, 
and who was invested with substantial powers to enable 
him to discharge his functions efficiently, and to maintain 
his authority. He could call upon the villagers to assist 
him, and could, at his own instance, inflict punishment 
for disobedience to his lawful requisitions. He was fre- 
quently not only the tax collector, but also the village 
magistrate ; and sometimes, in addition thereto, he per- 
formed the functions of a judge. But the village was, 
as a whole, held responsible for the payment of the 
annual revenue demand, for its own general good order, 
and for its own defence against dacoits or gang-robbers. 
The whole village was held liable to fine if stolen 
catde or other property were traced to its limits, if the 
perpetrators of serious crime committed within its bor- 
ders remained undetected, or if it could offer no reasonable 
jexcuse for failing to resist an attack by dacoits. 

The villages were surrounded by stockades consisting 
of chevaux-de-frise of bamboos with sharp ends pointing 
outwards, or formed of posts and thorny branches of the 
zibin [Zizyphus jujtiba) and other prickly shrubs or 
small trees growing even in the dryest parts ; and exit 
therefrom could only be made at gates facing the cardinal 
points. In the smaller hamlets there were usually only 
two gates, but larger villages had four. In every case 
each gate was guarded by a Kin or " watch-house," in 
which two young men were always supposed to remain 
at night keeping watch and ward. They were nick- 
named Ki7ikwd or " watch-dogs," as it was their duty to 



hail all passers by, like a dog barking at any one passing 
his kennel. 

Under such a system, which united the village com- 
munity both by common interest and local feeling, it was 
of course necessary to maintain a careful watch over 
the movements of strangers within the gate. Whoever 
entertained any stranger was bound to report to the Thu- 
gyi the arrival and departure of the guest. No one 
could squat in the village lands, or settle in the village, 
without the permission of the headman ; and he could 
petition the Wun or Myosd in charge of the rural district to 
order the removal of persons suspected to be of criminal 
tendencies. The village lands were demarcated, and in 
autumn, at the commencement of the dry season, rough 
tracks were cleared by every village up to the wooden 
posts fixed where the communal lands marched with 
those of the adjoining villages. This was a simple and 
tolerably effective means of communication, which cost 
nothing to the administration. When officials travelled, 
they were met at the village boundaries, and passed thus 
from village to village during the whole course of their 

The central authority controlling the Burmese system 
of village communities was weakened to a considerable 
extent during King Mindon's reign by innovations intro- 
duced by him (see p. 1 56). And later on, during the seven 
years Thibaw occupied the throne (i 878-1 885), the 
rural Governors became less and less easy to control. It 
was only in the broad plains of the Irrawaddy and its 
main tributaries that orders could be enforced. In the 
hills to the north and north-east, which were inhabited by 
wild Kachin tribes, these nomads were very much left to 
themselves. They had a reputation for blood-thirstiness, 
from the fearlessness characteristic of most mountaineers. 
The plains fringing the outskirts of most of the Kachin 
country, near where the Meza from the west and the 
Shweli from the east join the Irrawaddy river about 
200 miles north of Mandalay, formed the Siberia of 
Upper Burma. Subsequently Mogaung, a wilder and 
more nearly inaccessible place much further to the north, 
became the penal settlement. These were all highly 



malarious and unhealthy localities, banishment to which 
was popularly considered as equivalent to a sentence of 
death. In the north-west the hill tracts were peopled 
by the equally wild Chins, who were likewise a terror 
to the Burmese. All these hill tribes throughout the 
northern portions of the country had for generations 
been accustomed to find profit and pastime in raiding 
villages on the plains, in pillaging travellers, and in levy- 
ing blackmail from those within reach of their attacks. 

Even in the more settled districts of the plains to 
which the central authority extended in its fullest sense, 
whole districts were overrun by bands of dacoits or 
gang-robbers, some of which were actually in league 
with and under the protection of high officials at the 
Court. The notorious Taingda Mingyi, one of the 
blackest of scoundrels, is known to have aggrandised his 
income by sharing the spoils with the robber bands, and 
to have protected them by giving timely information of 
any expedition intended to be sent against them. In 
1885 he instigated the massacre of the leaders of the 
bands who were then in captivity in Mandalay, in order 
to obtain the security which comes of dead men telling no 
tales. These dacoit bands often included hundreds of 
men, and sometimes assumed the proportions of small 

Under the law of British India the term "dacoity " is 
defined as gang-robbery by five men or more, but the 
Burmese term Damyd simply means " many swords." 
The dacoits of Upper Burma were bandits or free- 
booters, who harassed more or less definite tracts of 
country, like the brigands of Greece and Italy. Dacoity 
was, in reality, a more or less organized guerilla system of 
attack and defence, which had been customary from time 
immemorial and had its origin in the village community 
system of administration. In the absence of the strong 
hand of a central government, it was the natural method 
by which force could be repelled by force, and public 
or private wrongs righted. The dacoit bands were 
recruited from among the young men of the vicinity, and 
no loss of social caste was entailed thereby. Each Bo or 
leader of a band was a sort of Robin Hood, at once 



feared and looked up to by the villages within his reach. 
Subsidized by them, he became their protector and 
defender against the raids and exactions of other Bo. 

As the monarchy was not strictly hereditary, but here- 
ditary only in the sense of being confined to the members 
of the family of Alaung Paya, which had been in posses- 
sion of the throne for the few generations since 1755, 
each scion of the royal line considered himself justified 
in raising the banner of insurrection whenever he thought 
he had a fair chance of success. Generally he could plead, 
if excuse were required, that the successful rival on the 
throne had endeavoured to secure himself by putting all 
his near male relatives to death. No King of Burma had 
ever been able to suppress insurrections of this sort. 
Some sovereigns of unusual energy obtained temporary 
tranquillity by executing or imprisoning all formidable 
rivals and by employing leaders who were able to break up 
the larger bands of dacoits ; but these peaceful periods 
were never of long duration, because the efforts to 
organize a regular army and an efficient police were 
always neutralized by the incapacity and procrastination 
of the officials, and by the inherent dislike of all kinds of 
discipline which is ingrained in the Burmese character. 

The ease with which any Prince of the house of 
Alaung Payd was able to raise a following explained not 
only the jealousy with which the reigning monarch kept 
his near relatives shut up within the palace enclosure, 
but also the closely secluded position which he himself 
maintained. It was seldom that a royal progress could 
be undertaken to any distance, as there was always the 
fear either of an attack outside of the palace, or of find- 
ing the palace gate closed against him on his return. On 
one of the rare occasions on which King Mindon went 
forth to enjoy an outing in a royal garden in the vicinity 
of Mandalay he was attacked by his own son, the 
Myingun Prince, and barely escaped with his life by the 
back door of the summer-house in which he was sleep- 
ing ; while the King's brother, the Mindat Prince, had to 
pay with his life the penalty of having been appointed 
Einshd Min or heir apparent, and thereby nominated 
formally as his brother's successor on the throne. 



The appointment of an heir apparent and successor 
was one of the royal prerogatives. This want of strict 
hereditary succession to the throne was the main cause 
of much bloodshed, intrigue, and disorganization. The 
Myingun Prince's insurrection occurred in 1866. He 
escaped into British territory, and was for many years 
maintained as a prisoner at Benares, in Bengal, but 
ultimately escaped and lived under French protection 
at Pondicherry. King Mindon seldom left his capital 
after 1866, and King Thibaw was probably never once 
outside of the palace enclosure during the whole of the 
seven years of his reign. 

In administrative capacity King Thibaw proved a 
very degenerate son of Mindon. In fact, he was below 
rather than above the average of Burmese sovereigns. 
Placed on the throne, while yet a boy, by means of a 
palace intrigue cleverly carried through by his prospective 
mother-in-law, he was weak and excitable, his conduct 
exhibiting the extremes of temerity and timidity. Many 
stories have been told of his fearful drunkenness and 
personal vices ; but they were partly false, and in any 
case were gross exaggerations. Under the control of 
Queen Supaydlat, and influenced strongly by ignorant 
and unworthy favourites among his Ministers, he over- 
threw Mindon's policy of keeping on good terms with 
the British, and he suffered laxity and corruption to 
canker the administration of the State : and for these 
things he was in due time heavily punished by dethrone- 
ment, exile, and the downfall of the ancient kingdom of 

During the closing years of the kingdom of Ava the 
authority of the central Government had become so dis- 
organized that anarchy prevailed throughout the country, 
and officials of all classes did very much what seemed 
good in their own eyes. So long as the Thdthaniedd 
revenue was regularly remitted to the due amount, the 
other details of administration were not very closely 
watched. There was a stand of between 10,000 and 
15,000 serviceable fire-arms in the royal arsenal, and an 
army of about 13,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and a few 
artillery was maintained in and around the capital, but 



these troops were next to useless. There was no real 
military organization. The Ministers of State, Privy 
Councillors, and Assistant Ministers were all generals of 
sorts who might be ordered to take the field in charge of 
an army ; but the only actual military ranks were the Bo, 
or captain, and the Sitke, or lieutenant, who performed 
duties partly of a military and partly of a police nature. 
The rabble forming the army was recruited as circum- 
stances required, the soldiers being paid on a sliding scale 
according to the length of service agreed on. A military 
rank abolished by King Mindon included the Thw^- 
thaukgyi or ** great blood drinkers," who were captains ot 
fifty, and to each of whom seven families were assigned, 
together with lands for his maintenance. 

The whole country was terrorized by the various 
dacoit Bo ; all social and political bonds became loosened ; 
villages and towns were burned ; and, not infrequently, 
even the district Governors were murdered by dacoit 
bands. Bhamo, the em.porlum of trade with China in 
the north-east, was burnt by Chinese freebooters, and the 
Kachin tribes were in insurrection ; while in the feudatory 
Shan States, extending from the range of hills near 
Mandalay eastwards to Yunnan, a league had been 
formed to throw off the Burmese yoke, and many of the 
Sawbwa or ruling Princes were in open rebellion. So 
bad did affairs ultimately become that King Thibaw 
actually ruled over little more than the royal city of 
Mandalay and its immediate vicinity, and the tracts com- 
manded by the main channels of communication ; and 
even within this limited area there was always a vast 
amount of maladministration. The case of the sack of 
Bhamo, on 8th December, 1884, was a typical instance 
of the way affairs were conducted in outlying parts of the 
kingdom. When the Kachin hill tribes revolted and 
attacked Bhamo, the Governor employed a number of 
Chinese to help in defending the town, and promised 
them a certain sum for their services. The Governor 
failing to keep his promise, these Chinese free-lances 
collected at a place called Matin and swooped down on 
Bhamo, first of all looting it, and then setting fire to it. 
The Chinese authorities had no hand in the matter. It 



was simply an act of Yannanese marauders, out of 
personal revenge for being defrauded of the price agreed 
on for their defence of the town against Burmese subjects 
in revolt. 

The Burmese Shan States extended over enormous 
tracts of country beyond the Salween and Mekong rivers 
till they marched with the Chinese province of Yunnan 
on the north-east, and with the Siamese Shan States on 
the east. They were mutually independent States, each 
ruled by its own Prince or Chief, whose title might be 
either Sdwbwa, Myosd, or Ngw^gunhmu, according to 
the size of his State, and his power and influence. There 
were some sixty to seventy of these chieftains, some of 
whom were powerful and practically independent Princes, 
forming the remnants of the great Shan nation which 
centuries ago held the whole of Further India. The 
name Shayi is a Chinese word meaning " mountain." 
Some fifteen of the smallest Shan States formed the 
Mydat, or " fallow tracts," bordering on the plains of 
Burma, which, though of great fertility, had become 
almost depopulated, owing to constant raiding and petty 
warfare. But all the different States had their constant 
feuds among themselves as well as with the Burmese on 
the plains ; and during the last years of Burmese rule 
they were torn and decimated by internecine struggles. 
The Burmese Government asserted its supremacy over 
the whole of these Shan States, and the King of Burma 
appointed to each its chief. The States adjacent to the 
Irrawaddy valley were controlled from Mandalay, but in 
those lying far from the capital two Sitke or Military 
Prefects, supported by garrisons of Burmese troops, were 
established at Mond and Mobye for controlling the 
general administration of the States. Although profess- 
ing to decide disputes between the mutually independent 
States, these Sitke left to the chiefs the management of 
their domestic affairs. Since the time of King Mindon, if 
not earlier, the western Shan States had regularly remitted 
to Mandalay tributes assessed, like the ThdthamMd, on 
the number of households ; but the suzerainty over the 
eastern States beyond the Salween and the Mekong 
was of a shadowy nature, and the tribute exacted was 



rather of a nominal and purely formal kind than of any 
really substantial value. 

The administration of the Shan States, as of other 
parts of the kingdom of Ava, fell into great disorder 
when Thibaw succeeded King Mindon. The tribute 
payable by these amounted nominally to about ^30,000 
a year, only a small portion of which was latterly paid. 
But about ;^5o,ooo were collected by means of imposts 
and restrictions on the importation and sale of Letpet or 
"pickled tea," which formed the most valuable product 
brought down from the hills. 

In 1884, six of the Sawbwa became embroiled with 
the Burmese Government, and had to seek refuge in the 
Kengtung State east of the Salween, whose powerful 
Chief, remote from Mandalay, enjoyed a large measure 
of independence, and was for personal reasons thoroughly 
disaffected towards the Court of Ava. In this asylum 
the exiled Sawbwa entered into a plot either to over- 
throw King Thibaw or to establish an independent 
sovereignty in the Shan States. The Prince selected to 
be their leader was the Limbin Prince, a son of the heir 
apparent who was killed in 1866, when the Myingun 
Prince attempted to kill both his father (Mindon) and his 
uncle (Mindat) and usurp the throne. On Thibaw's 
accession the Limbin Prince escaped to Lower Burma, 
where he was employed as a Myo Ok or magistrate in 
charge of a subdivision of a district. Removed from 
this appointment for incompetency, and for abusing his 
liberty by trying to organize rebellion in Upper Burma, 
he was living under nominal surveillance in Moulmein 
when he received the invitation from the exiled Sawbwa, 
and hurried away to accept it, in October, 1885, just 
before the outbreak of the third Burmese war. The 
end of this futile insurrection has, however, been else- 
where told (p. 134). It is mentioned again here merely 
to illustrate the condition of anarchy into which the 
kingdom of Ava had fallen under Thibaw's rule. 


Chapter VII 


UNDER their own King the Burmese were not 
Htigious. Differences of opinion were for by far 
the most part settled amicably by the parties themselves, 
or else by one or more arbitrators {Aminydtd Kun\ 
jointly appointed, or by official arbitrators {Ktcndaw) 
appointed by the King, who formed a class enjoying 
considerable judicial reputation.^ To those who were 
dissatisfied with the awards of such arbitrators, or for 
cases between parties not both resident in the same 
place, the court of the Myowun, or district Governor, 
was open ; and if satisfaction was not obtainable there, 
suits might be filed in one of the five civil courts in 
Mandalay. The ultimate court of appeal was the 
Hlutdaw, to which also direct application might be 
made in more important cases. In this highest court 
the King usually appointed the heir apparent or one 
or two of the senior Princes of the blood royal to decide 
the cases in consultation with the four Mingyi. From 
the decision of the Hlutdaw there was ordinarily no 
appeal ; but, in specially important cases concerning 
hereditary, territorial, and other claims, the parties to the 
suit were sometimes brought before the royal presence, 
after having petitioned through the Hlutdaw for such 
privilege, when the case was either re-heard or the Min- 
gyi were invited to explain the reasons of their decision 
before the latter was either confirmed or reversed by the 
final judgment of the King. 

^ Among the alterations made in the judicial administration during 
King Thibaw's time the practice of appointing Kun to try cases was 
abolished, and civil courts were constituted of different grades as to 
powers, jurisdiction, value of suits, appeals, etc. 



In the Dammathdt, or Laws of Manu, an ancient civil 
and criminal code existed, which was followed to a cer- 
tain extent ; but, as there was no authoritative code of 
procedure, the arbitrators and judges acted very much 
on lines of their own. They administered justice rather 
by equity, according to their own lights and ideas, than 
by law : and this naturally often led to the civil suits 
being settled by a compromise. Nor was impartiality 
one of the ruling characteristics with which Burmese 
judges were usually credited. Oaths were not adminis- 
tered on ordinary occasions, because an oath was re- 
garded with a deep-rooted, semi-religious dread as a 
kind of solemn ordeal ; hence they were only resorted to 
when one of the parties to the suit agreed to be bound 
by the effect of his adversary's statement made on oath. 

When the ordeal by oath was decided on, it was, like 
most solemn ceremonies in Burma, made the occasion of 
a festival. The litigants and their friends, all dressed in 
the gayest of garments and accompanied by a band of 
music, proceeded to a sacred edifice, where the statement 
upon oath was made in front of an image of Gaudama. 
Four forms of ordeal might be resorted to with regard 
to lawsuits. The other three comprised the ordeal by 
water, the ordeal by molten lead, and that by candle. 

In the first of these the plaintiff and the defendant 
went into deep water : their heads were pushed under 
water with poles, and right lay with him who could 
remain longest under water. As this ordeal could be 
performed by deputy, it seems to have been one of the 
most unsatisfactory description, which could only be re- 
sorted to by a childishly superstitious race such as the 
Burmese undoubtedly are. The ordeal by molten lead 
consisted in plunging the forefinger of each party into 
molten lead after the finger had been so tied round with 
feathers that only the tip remained exposed. If one 
party came out of the ordeal with less injury to his finger 
than was sustained by his opponent, he won the suit : 
otherwise the inflamed and damaged fingers were pricked, 
and the glorious uncertainty of the law decided in favour 
of him from whose badly burned finger-tip the less 
amount of serum flowed. The ordeal by candle took 

177 N 


place, like the ordeal by oath, in a sacred edifice and in 
front' of an image of the Buddha. Two candles, equal 
in every respect, were lighted after the usual formula of 
pious invocation had been repeated, and the suit was 
lost by that party whose candle first burned out and 
becfime extinguished. 

^^he Myoimin, or Governors of districts, practically 
exercised full civil and criminal jurisdiction in all ordinary 
suits. As there was no authoritative penal code through- 
out the land, punishments were awarded according to the 
discretion of the judge ; but his zeal, or whatever other 
more appropriate name may be given to the character- 
istic of his mind at the moment, often outran his dis- 
cretion. The quality of mercy might or might not be 
strained, yet appeals were extremely rare in criminal 
cases. The real explanation of this is, however, that, if 
any successful appeal were made, the village to which the 
appellant belonged could be harassed and annoyed in so 
many ways which were open to no appeal that finally 
the mischief-maker would be turned neck and crop out 
of the village in order to promote peace and welfare 
once more. It was recognized that there was no use in 
fighting when one had only the very thin end of the stick. 
Monetary fines were usually inflicted, though cruel pun- 
ishments were often adopted when the frequency of crime 
began to be specially noticeable. Whenever dacoity 
became so prevalent as to call for remonstrances from 
Mandalay, prisoners caught red-handed were usually 
crucified to serve as a terror-inspiring example. When 
undue or habitual severity on the part of a rural 
Governor was brought to the notice of higher authority 
at the capital, the ready explanation was given that the 
zeal of the Myowun had outrun his discretion, or, as 
the Burmese equivalent puts it, " his hand had reached 
further than he intended." Even at the capital, inhuman 
punishments were common for trivial offences. Thus, 
disobedience to a royal order might entail the slitting 
of the mouth and cheeks with a knife, after the jaws had 
been stretched wide open with a wooden instrument. 
To have ordered the death of any man or woman would 
have been an unpardonable sin in a Buddhist ; hence the 



pronouncement of the death sentence by the King was 
in the formula, " Let his property be confiscated, and let 
him travel by the usual road." In Thibaw's time (1878- 
1885) it is said to have been more tersely summed up in 
a mere wish not to see the person again. 

The chief civil and criminal Courts of First Instance in 
Mandalay were situated, like the Hlutdaw, at the Red 
or King's Gate on the eastern side of the palace, but 
beyond the stockade or external inclosure. The Civil 
Court decided important suits arising in Mandalay, and 
considered appeals from provincial and subordinate 
courts. But as, theoretically, no civil case was beyond 
the jurisdiction of the Hlutdaw, all appeals concerning 
landed property and hereditary offices were brought 
before the latter. All criminal appeals were also brought 
before the Hlut, whilst the Criminal Court merely dis- 
posed of cases which occurred at the capital. 

The Dammathdt or Laws of Manu, the great primary 
judicial code forming the Institutes of Law in both civil 
and criminal matters, consists of fourteen sections. It is 
a theoretical guide to the statute law, in which the pre- 
cepts are very frequently illustrated by means of parables, 
according to ancient custom throughout all the East. 
Some of the sections are practically confined to one 
subject, and are more or less complete, as, for example, 
the third section, dealing with borrowing, lending, and 
debts ; the seventh, detailing the laws of slavery ; the 
tenth, laying down the law of inheritance ; and the thir- 
teenth, treating of betting ; but there is a general want 
of anything like codification or systematic collection of 
different subjects under groups in logical sequence. So 
far as any system in the arrangement can be traced the 
Dammathdt begins by dealing with the boundaries of 
land, for *' Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour s 
landmark " found a foremost place in the ancient laws 
of all eastern nations. It then goes on to deal with 
movable property, with laws relating to pledges, hiring, 
master and servant, taxes and contracts, with theft and 
assault, with the law of husband and wife, with laws 
relating to other men and women, with slaves and slavery, 
with rights in land, gifts, borrowing, lending, and hiring, 


with miscellaneous matters connected with persons and 
personal property, with inheritance, with divorce and the 
partition of property on separation, and with betting ; 
finally it ends with miscellaneous matters chiefly regard- 
ing the Upazd or " precincts " of houses, monasteries, 
villages, towns, etc., and the law of trespass by huntsmen, 
fishermen, gatherers of honey, marriage parties, and 
funeral processions. 

Some of the matters dealt with are very amusing. 
Thus, in the fourth section there are laws ''regarding 
one person kicking another',' or " when one person pulls 
another s hair I' and ""when a dtgraded person points with 
the finger at a respectable one',' as well as " the law by 
which men are divided into three classes — excellent, 
middling, and depraved, — and each of these is also sub- 
divided into three classes." Again, in the eighth section, 
laws are laid down regarding borrowing clothes and 
going to a funeral in them, or unthinkingly wearing 
them whilst washing the head in order to avert the evil 
influence of the stars. The section following this con- 
tains the laws when a father-in-law assaults his son-in- 
law, and vice versa, also when the property of a visitor is 
lost whilst he is residing as guest in any house, or when 
the property of the house-owner is lost during the guest's 
stay ; and the laws relating to the seven kinds of witches 
or wizards, and their trial by ordeal of water. 

The perusal of these Laws of Manii is of considerable 
assistance in arriving at a true comprehension of the 
Burmese national character. They have a strictly re- 
ligious basis. Though the laws take cognizance of mur- 
der and homicide, wilful and otherwise, and the killing 
of animals, yet they do not prescribe or sanction the 
infliction of capital punishment; and in this they differ con- 
siderably from the more ancient laws in other parts of 
the East, which demanded a life for a life, an eye for 
an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Thus, — 

The la\y relating to murder is that, from any man who has killed 
another with a sword, spear, bow and arrow, or any other instrument, 
it is proper to demand restitution in an increased number of men; it is 
not proper to put him to death. If a dog bite a man's foot, it is not 
proper for that man to bite the dog's foot; nor is it right to put any 



man to death because he has killed another. A king who does not put 
a murderer to death will be praised by the good spirits and all good 
men, and will be supported and assisted by them ; while all evil beings, 
who have no respect for the laws, will keep afar off. The country ruled 
over by such a king will be pleasant to dwell in, and the inhabitants 
thereof will be prosperous and happy. 

No mention whatever is made of imprisonment, the 
punishments prescribed for offences invariably taking the 
form of compensations or fines, either in kind or else in 
silver or gold, commensurate with the amount of injury 
inflicted and with the manner or intention of inflicting 
it. Under certain circumstances slavery was a punish- 
ment for debt ; and of the sixteen kinds of slaves four 
became so from this cause. Impartiality on the part of 
judges was exhorted as essential for the proper adminis- 
tration of justice, and for their guidance it was duly 
recorded that ''the unjust judge shall suffer punishment 
in hell with head downwards, while the just judge shall 
ascend to the land of spirits and attain Neikban " i^Ni}^- 
vana\ Truthful^evidence, ranking equally in importance 
with impartiality in the judge, is enjoined under pain of 
immediate degradation, the " law of evidence " being 
tersely summed up thus : — 

Oh, King! if any man, whether produced as a witness or not, who 
habitually prevaricates in place of speaking truthfully — who calls the 
elder the younger, and the younger the elder ; the greater the less, and 
the less the greater ; the good bad, and the bad good — when examined 
as a witness between two parties, does not tell the truth, and the 
case is decided in consequence of his false evidence : let this false 
witness be taken before the house of him who hath thereby suffered 
damage, and let him there beg for ten to fifteen days, with his face 
blackened with soot, with his body whitewashed with hme, naked, 
and holding in his hand a potsherd ; and then let him be turned out 
of the country, and called a degraded fellow, whose word cannot be 

The laws of husband and wife, of divorce and partition 
of property on separation, and the laws of inheritance, are 
given with very full detail, and are much more practical 
and concrete than the above theoretical treatment of 
perjury. Marriage consists in a man and a woman being 
given to each other by their parents, or being brought to- 



gether by the intervention of a go-between, or by coming 
together by mutual consent ; but, in each case, living and 
eating together out of the same dish constitute the legal 
outward sign of marriage. The seven kinds of wives are 
enumerated and described both in the fifth and the twelfth 
sections of the Dammatkdt, the title of the latter section 
being The Seven Kinds of Wives, the Three Ways of 
Co7itracting Marriage, and the Law of Divorce. The 
descriptions of the seven kinds of wives afford so good 
an insight into certain phases of Burmese character 
and of domestic relations that they are worth quoting at 
length : — 

I. A Wife like a Mother is this : — A mother takes care that no bugs, 
gnats, mosquitoes, or horseflies bite or sting her child. If he be in 
charge of any other person, she fears he will receive hurt or get im- 
proper food, that they do not love him, or that they love and hate him 
at the same time. If he cries, she thinks he is being beaten. If others 
give him the best of food, she thinks there may be poison in it, and 
wishes him to eat only what she herself selects. If he be asleep or 
doing nothing, she is happy and contented ; and no matter how he is 
dressed, she thinks him handsome. Lest anything befall him while 
asleep, she will not leave him till he wakes. If he walks out in the sun 
or rain, she is anxious lest he be sunstruck, or slip and fall. Though 
she may have neither rest nor food, she is happy if her child has ; and 
if she can hear his voice, even abuse and bad language sound pleasant, 
though kissing him she gently chides him, and bids him not repeat such 
bad words. When alone, so that others cannot hear, she makes known 
to him the proper time for going or for tarrying, for coming or for stay- 
ing away, for remaining or not, for sleeping or for waking, for eating or 
for fasting, and various other matters. She repeatedly warns him 
against the five sins of taking life, stealing, committing adultery, lying, 
and drinking, and reminds him that only the three precious gems — the 
Buddha, the Law, and the Assembly — are worthy of reverence. She 
places him with a good teacher for instruction, and rejoices if he earn 
praise from his teacher and wishes to become a probationer for the re- 
ligious life. But if he wish to live the life of a layman, her heart's 
desire is that he should only espouse a girl of good family, and that she 
should tend him till the end of her life. In childhood, when she holds 
him to her bosom, he pulls at her, scratches her face, bites her, tears 
her breasts, and pulls at her mouth, yet she is not annoyed. 

A wife who thus loves her husband as a mother loves her child, who 
reflects that her husband has been given to her by her parents, or that 
her marriage was arranged by a go-between, or that she chose him of 
her own free will, will only eat when he eats and sleep when he sleeps. 
She will say to herself, " My husband is a man; and matihood is a great 
gift, which can only be attained by a woman after much striving" ; and 
she will think her husband comely in dress and well-behaved in eating. 



When he goes to festivals or assembhes, she will so dress and bedeck 
him that he may outshine others, and will wish to know why he goes 
and when she may expect him back. She lays out his dress for him, 
and prepares his food. If he hanker after another woman, she does 
not publish this fact to every one, but conceals it, and only in the 
privacy of their chamber she discusses whether philandering in this 
way be right or not. A wife who thus considers the good of her husband 
and his affairs, and is filled with kindly sentiments towards him, is a 
wife like a mother ; and such a wife is deserving of love. 

2. A Wife like a Sister is this : — When a sister grows up, she is be- 
comingly modest and timid. In her comings and goings, in her con- 
versation, in dress and in adornment, from the soles of her feet up to 
the crown of her head, she is circumspect, being careful not to expose 
herself immodestly even before her brother. In laughing and talking 
with her brother she is bashful, and speaks with downcast countenance. 
A wife who thus tries at all times to appreciate the position of a 
husband, to behave with becoming modesty and reserve towards him, 
and to do all she can to make him happy and fill his heart with sweet- 
ness, is a wife like a sister. 

3. A Wife like a Friend is this: — When one arrives on a visit to 
a good friend, after the interchange of greetings, he brings water to 
wash one's feet and hands and to refresh one's brow and face, and pre- 
pares a pillow, a bed, tobacco, betel, tea, sweets and sours good for 
eating. Then he offers pleasant greetings to the guest, addressing him 
with a joyful countenance. A wife who thus looks after her husband's 
wants, who feels kindly disposed towards him, and talks to him 
affectionately and in moderation, who, in his comings and goings, in 
his friendships, and in the great and the little affairs of life continually 
assists and works for him like a good friend, who looks cheerful when 
she sees her husband and talks pleasantly to him, who wishes to wash 
and dry his feet, to lay out his clothes and his food, to prepare his 
resting-place, to give him sweet foods and sour in due season, and 
to look after his comfort, is a wife like a good friend. 

4. A Wife like a Master is this : — A master makes his slave give 
him his sandals and his fan, prepare his pillow and his couch, get ready 
water for bathing, accompany him on journeys, and bring him inform- 
ation as to what is going on. If the slave fails to do these things 
properly, the master does not chide him gently, but passionately ex- 
claims in pride and haughtiness, " Hey I you ugly brute, you fool, you 
son of poverty-stricken parents plunged in debt and reduced to slavery I" 
He pulls his servant's front hair, punches him with his elbow, beats 
him with whatever he happens to get hold of, and kicks him, unheeding 
that the poor fellow works for him without getting good food or clothing, 
and without being well cared for. A wife who thus haughtily addresses 
her husband, saying, "Hey/ you ugly fellow, you dirty, low brute/" who 
reviles his parents and other relations, who, in distributing clothing and 
food, keeps the best clothes for herself and leaves the rest for her 
husband, who, first of all, eats the tit-bits and gives him only the 
leavings, and who will not allow him to say a word although she herself 
speaks far more than she ought to, who sleeps on the best and most 



comfortable part of the bed, and makes her husband sleep on the lower 
part, and who does not consider the feelings of her husband but only 
thinks of herself, is a wife like a master. 

5. A Wife like an Enemy is this: — An enemy's thoughtis todo vio- 
lence whenever he sees the object of his enmity, or to contrive his death 
or ruination. If he cannot attain this, he feigns affection, and gives 
him poison, when pretending to give him good things to eat and drink. 
If this be discovered, he bribes others to destroy his enemy by means 
of spells or charms. If these cannot affect his person, he tries to ruin 
him by killing his buffaloes, cattle, horses and elephants, or by secretly 
getting others to set fire to his house, garden, granary, and property ; 
and, while he speaks as if he loved him, he intends his death or ruin- 
ation. The origin of such intention may have been the refusal of some 
animate or inanimate object that has been desired, which has occasioned 
anger and has changed the former friendy feeling into the deadly hate of 
an enemy. When a wife acts in something like the above manner, wish- 
mgto have another lover, and desiring to attain this object by compass- 
ing the death of her husband by means of poison or charms, reviles 
him and his parents, his grandparents and his other relatives, she is a 
wife like an enemy. 

6. A Wife like a Thief is this: — A thief plots day and night how 
to get things that belong to others. Stealing secretly himself, he also 
gets others to steal for him. Changing marks, he misappropriates 
articles, substitutes bad for good, or steals in other of the twenty-five 
ways enumerated in the sacred precepts. A wife who thus acts without 
the knowledge of her husband, secreting things and giving them away 
without her husband's consent, is only fit to be called a wife like a thief: 
and she is a wife like a thief. 

7. A Wife like a Slave is this : — She lays out her husband's clothing 
and sees to it being in proper order. Having considered what is best 
for her husband to eat and drink, she prepares his food nicely and 
places it before him like a slave serving her master in trembling and 
respect. When he arrives from a far journey, she receives her husband 
respectfully by kneeling down, sitting upon her feet, and folding her 
hands, and gives him water for washing his feet, for bathing, and for 
drinking. If he should happen to find fault about any household 
matter, she does not speak back, but is afraid of ruffling his temper still 
further by saying a single word in a cross manner. She does not 
venture to eat and drink while her husband is still eating and drinking, 
but waits till he has finished and then eats what is left. Such a wife is 
a wife like a slave. 

Oh, wise judges ! Of these seven kinds of wives, a wife like an 
enemy and a wife like a thief should, if their shortcomings are clearly 
proved, receive judgment as if they were enemies and thieves. 

Of these seven kinds of wives, the wife like a mother, the wife like a 
sister, the wife like a friend, and the wife like a slave ought not to be 
put away by any man, but should be lived with for life. But the three 



others, the wife Uke a master, the wife like an enemy, and the wife Hke 
a thief, may be put away even if they have borne ten children : they 
need not be lived with even for one day longer. Of these seven kinds 
of wives, the wife like a slave will not be disappointed should she pray 
to become a man in the next state of existence, for her desire shall be 
fulfilled, and she will attain Neikban (Nirvana) before any of the others. 

Marriage was not a union irrevocably binding. Divorce 
was obtainable by mutual consent, or at the instance of 
either party ; and the partition of property on separation 
was provided for in about fifty laws taking cognizance of 
the reasons for separation and the social status of husband 
or wife. 

The simplest form of divorce was the separation by 
mutual consent of a husband and wife, both born of 
parents who were freemen. In this case the husband and 
wife were each allowed to take their personal clothes 
and ornaments. Any property acquired by the husband 
alone, or by the wife alone, was to be divided into three 
portions, of which the person who had separately ac- 
quired it took two, while the third went to the other 
party ; but property acquired by joint endeavour, or 
where both had an equal share in the capital, was equally 
divided. If the clothes or personal ornaments of the 
one were much more valuable than those of the other, 
they were to be valued and the difference made good. 
With regard to children of the marriage, the father took 
the boys, unless they were too young to be taken from 
the mother, and the mother took the girls. If debts had 
been incurred during the period of cohabitation, they 
were to be borne equally. After separation and division 
of the property, each party had full right to form any 
new connexion in marriage. 

When only the husband or the wife wished to separate, 
but the other party did not consent to a divorce, and no 
particular cause was specified for dissolution of the 
marriage, but merely the broad generalization of incom- 
patibility from ''their destinies 7iot being cast together',' all 
property, animate or inanimate, went to the non-consent- 
ing party ; while the party wishing for a divorce only 
retained his or her clothes and ornaments, and had to 
pay any expenses incurred in obtaining the separation. 


When there was no property beyond clothes and house- 
hold articles to dispose of, if the man wished to separate 
he could only take away with him one turban, one jacket, 
one loin-cloth, and one Da or bill ; while the wife, if 
suing for the divorce, in addition to her jacket, loin-cloth, 
and kerchief, could also remove the cloth woven and 
rolled up on her loom, the loom, the shuttles, and the 
other implements belonging to it. 

When a divorce took place by mutual consent, each 
party had to pay an arbitration fee of fifteen rupees 
\£i)\ but otherwise this fee had only to be paid by the 
party seeking the dissolution of the marriage. 

If a husband, having taken a lesser wife, abused and 
beat his first wife and oppressed her, they were to try 
to live again on good terms ; but if this conduct were 
repeated, the chief wife could, under the special circum- 
stances, claim a divorce on the same terms as if both 
parties were consenting, even though the husband de- 
clared his unwillingness to separate. 

Certain improprieties in conduct on the part of a wife, 
being regarded merely as gross breaches of wifely eti- 
quette, did not form legal grounds for a divorce ; while 
she was further protected by law with specific reasons 
justifying her abusing her husband and imprecating evil 
on him — a license which many wives freely availed them- 
selves of. The fivefold improprieties which a wife might 
thus exhibit without affording adequate grounds for a 
divorce included impropriety in dress, in eating, in 
relations with other men, in property, and in be- 

Improprieties with regard to Dress are these : — If any woman, whether 
well or sick, goes inappropriately dressed to a festival or even where there 
is no public entertainment, or inconsiderately goes to the house of the 
dead in other than the customary dress, or if, not having clothes of her 
own, she pays more than she ought to for clothes to bedeck herself with, 
or has many more clothes than she requires and overdresses herself day 
and night, or if she hides her dresses from her husband and only puts 
them on for the sake of being praised by others, or if she gets into debt 
by buying clothes and will even go the length of selling her children 
into slavery for the sake of dress, or would have herself better dressed 
than her husband, such a wife acts with impropriety in regard to dress. 

Improprieties with regard to Eating are these : — If any wife eat before 
her husband has eaten, or eat frequently without his knowledge, or take 



the good things for herself, so that her husband only has the coarser 
food, or continually overeats to a dangerous extent, or who, being a 
woman, eats raw meat with the blood in it such as is fit only to be eaten 
by a man, or, contrary to custom, wants to eat at all sorts of times even 
in presence of others, she is a woman without shame or fear, and is 
guilty of impropriety in eating. Men may eat of many dishes that may 
be succulent, sweet, astringent, bitter, sharp, or sour ; but if a woman 
wishes to eat ^thus from many dishes, or heaps all sorts of food into 
one dish for herself, this is excess in eating. Whether she eat openly 
before others or secretly, whether with her husband's knowledge or 
without it, the woman who eats thus commits an impropriety in eating. 
Or when several people are together at food, it is improper for a woman 
to be always dipping her fingers into the dishes, or to be continually 
rising up and then sitting down again, or standing and making faces : 
these are all forms of impropriety in eating. 

Improprieties with regard to Men are these : — If any woman assumes 
a smiling countenance on seeing other men than her husband, if she 
take men by the hand and seem delighted, if she call any man to her 
to make friends with him or ask men passing by to stop and sit down, 
if she seek acquaintances only among men rather than among women, 
these are all improprieties with regard to men. 

Improprieties with regard to Property are these : — If any woman place 
in the outer portion of the house things that ought to be in the inner 
room, or vice versa, if, having but little to live on, she spend a good 
deal for the sake of display before others, if she give presents without 
her husband's knowledge, if she intentionally put in prominent places 
things that should be kept out of sight, or if she be continually showing 
off and talking to others about her own things, she is a woman guilty of 
improprieties as regards property. 

Improprieties with regard to Behaviour are these : — A self-respecting 
woman should behave with decorous reserve on hearing the voice 
of any other man than her husband, or even without hearing any man's 
voice. If she look out from the entrance of her house beyond the 
fence, if she be continually looking up and turning her eyes and her 
face in all directions, or if, when she goes out, she be constantly turning 
and looking at men whom she sees, or whose voices she hears, such 
a woman is guilty of impropriety in conduct. 

Though a wife could not be divorced for any or all of 
these improprieties, the Dammathdt laid down that the 
husband had a right to inflict personal chastisement on 
her. If, after frequent chastisement, she still continued to 
be guilty of improprieties in conduct, a divorce was obtain- 
able, each taking the separate property held at the time 
of marriage, and the husband taking also what had been 
acquired during the period of cohabitation. It was 
further laid down that for drinking, want of order or 
neatness in household arrangements, scolding her hus- 



band or reviling him when absent, gadding about and 
talking in other people's houses, and lolling about the 
front of the house, similar chastisement should be inflicted 
for at least three times before the husband should^ be 
justified in seeking divorce from such a wife. If he failed 
to master her, and she continued her former habits, 
divorce was obtained on similar conditions to those above. 
For excessive pride about family, personal appearance, 
or property, or for running down her husband's family or 
friends, personal correction was also prescribed to be 
inflicted thrice before separation became justifiable. And 
the method of chastisement wa3 duly prescribed : — 

In chastising his wife the husband is not to beat her with his elbow 
or fists, or with a doubled rope or a thick stick, or kick her on the 
breasts, or tread on her neck, which is only treatment fit for a slave or 
an adulterous wife ; but he may whip her with a thin wand, or with 
the palm of his hand, on the loins, buttocks, or feet. 

A wife had the right to abuse her husband and impre- 
cate evil upon him for any one or other of eight specific 
causes. If they were very poor, and he could not 
contrive anything for their subsistence ; if he were sorely 
afflicted with disease, and unable to work ; if he were 
ignorant of, or cared nought for, the ** three precious 
gems : the Buddha, the Law, and the Assembly" ; if he 
were a fool, who did not know a good man from a bad ; if 
he were skilled in handiwork, or could talk well, but was 
lazy and would not exert himself to work ; if amorous to 
excess ; if he were apt to frequent loose places ; or if he 
were much given to betting and gambling, she could 
abuse him without being held guilty of anything justifying 
a divorce. If the husband were, however, subjected to 
such continuous nagging that married life became in- 
supportable, then a divorce could be obtained as by 
mutual consent, the property being equally divided on 
separation. According to the Dammakdn, or Sacred Law, 
it is wrong for a woman to abuse her husband for faults 
that she sees in him ; but according to the Dammathdt, 
or Judicial Law, there is no justification for a husband 
separating and taking all the property simply because 
his wife may be abusive. 

A wife having long moustaches or whiskers, small feet 

1 88 


and large hands, who walks with irregular steps, and 
who has no well-developed breasts, may be divorced as 
a woman with whom it is improper for other people to sit 
on the same level, or to converse on religious subjects ; 
because these personal defects are the result of bad deeds 
done in a former state of existence. This religious idea, 
indeed, underlies the Burmese legal aspect of divorce. 
The proper term for divorce, Akaungkun, literally means 
" a cessation of the coalescence of the destinies of a married 
couple^' although, colloquially, the word Kwa, " to sepa- 
rate," is almost invariably used. A childless wife, or 
one who has borne several daughters but no son, could 
also be separated from ; and for these and a great many 
other concrete cases the partition of property was duly 
regulated by law. 

The extreme case of divorce was that in which, after 
husband and wife had lived together very happily, the 
wife committed adultery. In this case, if she had no 
property, her husband had the right to sell her. 

As a matter of fact, divorce or separation, an event of 
somewhat common occurrence, is far more frequently 
claimed by wives than by husbands. Slippering of hus- 
bands is much more common than beatinsf of wives ; and 
violent, foul abuse of husbands is often heard issuing 
from the mouths of wives who have worked themselves 
up into a frenzied state of fury. It cannot be denied 
that the Dammathdt does not hold anything like an even 
balance between husband and wife ; but then, according to 
Burmese Buddhism, the wife occupies, and herself admits 
that she occupies, a very inferior position to a man upon 
" the ladder of existence " leading upwards to Neikban 
or annihilation. As a woman, however, she can play her 
part well, and thereby earn religious merit ; for in these 
Laws of Manii it is recorded that — 

Even a man is worthless if he have no good habits ; while a woman 
may be excellent if her conduct be good. . . . If a wife assist in 
<07npleting her husband, her conduct gives her the advantage of good 
deeds throughout future existences. Though she may not approve her 
husband's habits, yet, if she respectfully yield to his wishes, she is 
worthy of being called an excellent wife. She thereby frees herself from 
hell, and is brought upon the road leading straight towards the land of 



In addition to the Dammaikdt, or Statute Law, there 
is also a small collection of ancient precedents in law 
known as the Pyatdon or "decisions" of Princess Thu- 
dammasari, somewhat in the nature of a very brief 
compendium of Common Law perpetuated in the form of 
narratives according to the ancient Eastern style. 

As these fundamental Institutes of Law had from 
time to time undergone various modifications, a new 
compilation of the laws actually administered was under- 
taken during King Thibaw's reign by the Kinwun 
Mingyi, the Prime Minister, after consideration and 
comparison of all the available texts. This compilation, 
known as the Attasankhepa Vannand Dammathdt, was 
first printed in Burmese in 1882. Since then it has 
always been recognized as an authoritative statement of 
the Burmese Buddhist law ; although under British 
administration it, of course, does not form the ultimate 
authority in legal cases. 

In this latest edition of the Dammathdt the original 
Institutes have been altered to suit the necessities of latter- 
day life, although the principles underlying the new version 
remain unchanged. The law of inheritance and partition 
is exceedingly complicated, and this alone requires no less 
than a hundred and thirty-five sections in its enunciation, 
while marriage and divorce have as many as one hundred 
and twenty-three sections allotted to them. These latter 
developments of Burmese law are exceedingly interesting 
both as complements to the extracts above given from 
the ancient Manii Dammathdt, and also as exhibiting 
the evolution of legal ideas regarding the family tie and 
domestic union. They possess so many points of pecu- 
liar interest in these regards, and are at the same time so 
illustrative of national habits and ideas, that a compre- 
hensive summary of the last thirty-five sections relating 
to divorce deserves to be given. It will accordingly be 
found as an appendix at the end of the present volume. 

Of prison administration there was next to none. 
There were jails at the chief towns of districts; while 
at Mandalay there were three, namely, one inside the 
palace and two outside. It was not the custom for the 
Burmese Government to feed convicts. They were fed 



by their relations, and a certain number of those who 
had no friends willing or able to support them were al- 
lowed to go out and beg for food or to earn it by carry- 
ing water, collecting firewood, or doing other odd jobs. 
The jails were loathsome and insanitary, and the pun- 
ishments inflicted were barbarous in the extreme. In 
criminal cases torture was often freely applied both to 
the accused and to the witnesses, while the sentences 
varied from fines and a few stripes with a cane up to 
imprisonment, slavery, and death. If condemned to 
slavery, the serf and his descendants became slaves, who 
were allotted to pagodas as sweepers of the precincts. 
The taint of slavery of this sort could not be cleansed 
away : even if a freeman took the daughter of a pagoda- 
slave to be his wife, their children were serfs. 

Those condemned to imprisonment usually had to 
undergo great sufferings. For safe custody, their feet 
were tied to a long pole or bamboo ; and at night this 
was often raised by blocks so that only the shoulders 
and head rested on the ground, and the whole weight of 
the body was thrown on them. Or, if they wore fetters, 
a bamboo would be passed between the legs of several 
prisoners, and then raised in similar manner. The 
capital sentence was usually carried out by decapitation 
or disembowelment, but in the case of royal prisoners 
the head was drawn back and blows inflicted on the 
throat with a bamboo. In 1879 a sister of the Nyaung- 
yan Prince was thus executed, and as she was a strong 
young woman it took seven blows to kill her. Thrown 
into prison along with her mother on the Nyaungyan's 
escape to Lower Burma in 1878, they were for some 
time supported by alms sent from the British Residency; 
but, when rumours of a rising by the Nyaungyan Prince 
reached the palace, the go-between grew alarmed and 
fled, and the Princess and her mother were fed by the 
mother of Thibaw's Queens till the order was given for 
execution. Sometimes such victims were trodden to 
death by elephants, as happened in the case of the 
widow of King Bdgyidaw, who was put to death by 
King Tharrawaddi in 1840. The disembowelment of 
heinous offenders usually took place on crucifixes, con- 



sisting of two or three upright posts with crossbars in 
the shape of a St. Andrew's cross, which were fixed^ at 
places of punishment. Sometimes, too, after decapitation 
the corpses were lashed to these cru ". • s, and in either 
case the bodies hung there till the Hl ' i been torn off 
by vultures, and the bones fell to ...o ground.^ This 
punishment was often inflicted on dacoits. It is pei- 
haps only fair to add that although the apparently in- 
evitable massacres which took place when he deposed 
the Pagdn Min in 1853 could not have been unknown to 
King Mindon, yet throughout his reign but little blood 
was shed with his sanction or previous knowledge ; when 
executions of criminals took place, the facts are said to 
have been carefully kept from him. 

Judicial business was conducted with great solemnity 
and ceremonial within the Hlutdaw. When the 
Council was presided over by the heir apparent, or 
by any other member of the royal family acting as vice- 
president — for the King was the president ex officio — 
only the suitors or their advocates were permitted to 
appear, the cases being heard in chambers, as it were. 
The members of the Council always wore a uniform 
proper to the occasion. This consisted of a loose robe 
of muslin thrown over a tight-fitting white coat made of 
cotton, whilst a narrow fillet of rolled white muslin was 
bound round the head and tied with the ends pointing 
upwards. Both parties to the suit had to wear the dress 
considered suitable for such an occasion ; but, previous 
to their being allowed to appear, they were robed in 
long loose white coats and then capped, the plaintiff's 
cap being green and the defendant's red. These dis- 
tinctive articles of dress were usually worn by the ad- 
vocates only. They were provided from the public 
purse and kept at the Hlutdaw in place of being, like a 
barrister's wig and gown, the private property of the 
individual advocate. 

Whether one gained or lost, a lawsuit was always an 
expensive matter. Fees, presents, and bribes were un- 
avoidable, not only in law matters but whenever officials 
of any high degree were approached on business. When 
presents were offered to the King, as, for example, when 



concessions were asked for regarding extracting teak 
timber, or mining earth-oil — and without such douceurs 
no petitioner had the slightest chance of success — a pre- 
sent of half th'^^'.rn'jLe was also made to the Minister, 
who urged, or. ' oout to urge, the grant of the con- 
cession. The \^ administration in all its branches 
\:as rotten with corruption and bribery, while the judicial 
system in particular was lax and corrupt to a degree. 

The institution of a civil suit was made by presenting 
a written petition or plaint to the judge, who thereupon 
appointed his Nakdn, or assistant (lit. "listener") to 
report after holding preliminary enquiries among the 
parties to the suit and their witnesses. Together with 
this report the plaintiff and defendant submitted their 
pleadings, respectively setting forth in detail the causes 
of action and replying thereto with full statements of 
defence. A day having been fixed for hearing the case, 
advocates were chosen and the suit came on in due 
course. Guided by the investigations and report of the 
Nakdn the issues of fact were fixed by the judge, who 
ordained that the plaintiff must prove certain issues, and 
that the defendant must, if he could, in like manner 
prove given points. After the examination of witnesses, 
judgment was pronounced. If the parties to the suit 
consented to accept the judge's decision, they ate pickled 
tea {Letpei) in token of being satisfied with the decision 
of the court, and the judgment thereby became binding 
and final. Whether before arbitrators, or in the courts 
of the district Governors, or in the civil courts at the 
capital, the eating of Letpet was the formal acceptance 
of the judgment by both parties ; and refusal to eat it 
meant an appeal to the next higher court. The judg- 
ments of the Hlutdaw being final, however, there was 
no custom of eating Letpet upon their decisions being 

It not infrequently happened that when the non-con- 
senting party proved contumacious and unreasonable in 
the eyes of the judge, such contempt of court led to his 
being cast into prison, a not very comfortable place under 
the best of circumstances in Upper Burma in those days, 
and he was kept there until his frame of mind became 



sufficiently mollified to induce him to eat tea and thus 
accept the verdict pronounced by the court. Like 
criminals, such persons were not maintained by the 
State, but had to depend on relatives and friends for 
their daily food. 

It appears to have been a sort of fundamental axiom 
with the civil courts of Ava that, when suits were insti- 
tuted, both parties probably had a certain amount of 
right on their side, but that both were at the same time 
more or less in fault. A happy compromise, therefore, 
usually seemed to the judge the best and most satis- 
factory way of terminating the differences of the suitors. 
Though devoid of anything like a legal basis, this guid- 
ing principle seems to have contained a good deal of 
sound common sense. But the character of the judges 
for impartiality was held rather at a discount, and the 
rich suitor with an open purse had a better chance of 
obtaining satisfaction than his poorer rival. At the eat- 
ing of tea after the judgment the Letpet was almost sure 
to taste sweeter to the former than to the latter. Bitter, 
indeed, it must often have proved to the poor man un- 
jusdy sued for malicious motives, and mulcted in money, 
cattle, or land by the inequitable judgment bought with 
the wealth of his enemy. 

For the trial of civil suits between European British 
subjects and Burmans a mixed court was held in the 
palace at Mandalay, where the British Resident, or the 
Assistant Resident, sat about once a week to try cases 
along with a Burmese judge. This custom of course 
lapsed when direct diplomatic relations were broken off 
by the withdrawal of the British representatives in Octo- 
ber 1879. 


Chapter VIII 


EVEN before King Mindon ascended the throne, 
early in 1853, he had two dreams which impressed 
him greatly. In the first of these he saw a large city 
lying at the foot of Mandalay hill, a few miles to the 
north-east of Amdrapiira. In the second dream he was 
riding a white elephant which took him to the foot of 
Mandalay hill, where he dismounted. Here two women, 
calling themselves Ba and Ma, took hold of his right and 
his left hands and led him to the summit, where a man 
offered him a handful of scented grass, and told him that 
his elephants and horses would always thrive if fed with 
the grass that grew round about the hill. 

When Mindon became King, he had to follow the cus- 
tom prescribed for the maintenance of a line of sucession 
having the pure blood royal. For this purpose one of 
the King's daughters, always known as the Tablndaing 
Princess, remained unmarried in order to become the 
wife of the next monarch. In case of any accident be- 
falling the Tabindaing with regard to producing heirs, the 
second available Princess nearest of kin to the royal blood 
was also wedded to the new King. The former became 
the "chief" Queen {^Nanmaddw), and the south palace 
( Taungnyd) was assigned to her use ; while the latter 
became the " middle " Queen [Alenandaw), in contradis- 
tinction to any and all inferior wives raised to queenly 
rank. Thus Mindon received his step-sister and his 
cousin as royal consorts. This had now become nothing 
more than the survival of an ancient custom, since the 
throne did not descend by direct lineal succession, but 
was filled by any prince, usually a brother or a son, 



who had been nominated as heir apparent by the King. 
The only requisite quaUfication was that he should be a 
son of one of the four chief Queens of a King. 

Now it happened that these two Princesses, who became 
Mindon's chief Queens, had each been born on a Thurs- 
day and had therefore, for reasons elsewhere explamed 
ivide chapter xxi.), received names beginning with Ba 
and Ma. This apparent confirmation of part of his 
second dream made Mindon ponder over the desirability 
of founding a new capital on the level plain stretching 
towards the south-west from the base of Mandalay hill. 

Many religious recluses of saintly reputation, many 
men of light and leading, and the royal astrologers were 
made to assemble and consult on this matter ; and they 
almost unanimously advised that a new capital should be 
founded. Only two men, a recluse and an astrologer, 
dissented from the consensus of opinion, and urged that, 
for all practical purposes, Amdrapura lay near the foot 
of Mandalay hill. But Mindon was bent on having a 
new capital, so, in 1857, the foundations of that city were 
laid which became known to the English as Mandalay, 
although to the Burmese it was always, previous to the 
British annexation, Shwemyodaw, " the Royal Golden 
City," or else Yadandbon, " the Cluster of Gems." King 
Mindon, though a very pious Buddhist and strongly 
averse to the shedding of blood, was, like the vast 
majority of Burmese, simply saturated with superstition. 
So in founding the new city he acted on the advice of 
his chief astrologer, and a pregnant woman was slain one 
night in order that she might become the guardian spirit 
of his palace. Throughout the whole of his reign offer- 
ings were openly made in the palace by the King to the 
spirit of the murdered woman, which was supposed to be 
incarnated in the body of a snake. This is a strange 
and strong proof of animistic worship on the part of 
one who was unquestionably a most religious Buddhist, 
and the most enlightened of all the monarchs of the 
Alaung Payd dynasty. 

Small spirit-houses {Natsin), like dove-cots, are still to 
be seen on the tops of all the remaining buildings in the 
palace ; and in the King's apartments there are holes in 



the roof which were made in order to allow the resident 
spirits to visit him whenever inclined. 

At all the gates in the city walls, and at the four 
corners, male victims were also done to death — being 
buried alive, it is said, along with large jars of oil — ac- 
cording to the ceremony known as Sadd, for the purpose 
of providing guardian spirits to keep watch and ward 
over all the lines of approach to the city. Small, white- 
washed, pagoda-like tumuli outside the gates and the 
corners of the outer walls still form the abodes of these 
guardian spirits of the city (^Myozadd). 

As the city was founded in 2,400th year after the 
death of Gaudama, the city walls were made to measure 
in all 2,400 Td (of irii feet), each one of the four 
sides of the perfect square being thus a little over a mile 
and one- third in length. Including their battlements 
they are 28|- feet in height, are built of red brick, and 
are flanked with a broad earthen rampart. The walls 
face due north, east, south, and west. 

On each side at regular distances ot sixty Td, they are 
(or originally were, for some have now succumbed to 
decay) surmounted by ornamental spires (Tazdung, 
Pyathat) richly painted with cinnabar and profusely 
gilded. Those over the four main gates have nine roofs, 
the number allowed to be erected only over the King's 
palace and above monasteries. Often, however, some 
difficulty is to be found in counting the whole of the nine 
roofs, even in cases where they all really exist, as two or 
even three partial false roofs are sometimes introduced 
to simplify construction. The two minor gates on each 
side of the city wall are topped by seven- roofed spires, 
the number allowed by the Burmese sumptuary laws to 
tributary chiefs like the Sawbwa of the Shan States ; 
while all the other smaller Tazdimg have only five roofs. 
Some of these have already fallen down through decay 
and neglect. Outside, the city was surrounded by a moat, 
which is fed by springs preventing the water from stag- 
nating ; for the three requisites of a Burmese city {^Myd) 
were a bazaar, a fortress wall, and a moat. 

Within these city walls, which enclose what is now 
known as Fort Dufferin, the capital was laid out in a series 



of squares and blocks, whose sides were parallel to the 
outer defences. In the centre were the grounds and the 
palace of the King, forming a square fortified enclosure, 
each side of which was somewhat over three furlongs in 
length, defended by an outer palisade of sharp-pointed 
teak-posts, about sixteen feet high, which was neither 
loop-holed nor provided with flank defences. About 
sixty feet behind this, separated by a clear space, came 
an inner brick wall, which has now been almost entirely 
removed, though portions may still be seen (1898) near 
the north-east corner. Another inner wall, now almost 
entirely destroyed, enclosed the private apartments of 
the royal family and the state rooms. 

Around the palace, outside the stockade, were grouped 
the residences of all the great Ministers of State, with 
one exception. Each was in the centre of a block, 
the outer portions of which were crowded with the huts 
of their retainers and by persons keeping petty shops or 
stalls. The only building of this sort now remaining 
(1898) is that occupied by the ex-Kinwun Mingyi, to the 
south-east of the palace. No masonry buildings were 
allowed to be erected save within the palace grounds, so 
that the royal city was, for the most part, a rude collection 
of wooden houses and bamboo huts. The solitary ex- 
ception above noted was the notorious Taingda Mingyi, 
a ferocious, bloodthirsty ruffian, who was directly respon- 
sible for some of the massacres during Thibaw's reign, 
and indirectly responsible for the third Burmese war and 
the extinction of the kingdom of Ava. He lived in a 
house, now totally destroyed, near the southern gate of 
the inner palace enclosure. 

Outside the walls of the city, a straggling native town 
stretched southwards towards Amarapura and westwards 
to the Irrawaddy. Settlements here were encouraged by 
King Mindon, not only because they naturally meant in- 
crease of trade and traffic, but also because the embank- 
ments rendered necessary for the protection of these 
suburbs prevented, as he thought, the possibility of the 
palace ever being shelled from hostile war-vessels that 
might lie at anchor in the river. 

All the main roads, both in the city and the suburbs, 



were well planted with avenues of trees. The latter were 
mostly tamarind, which thrives well in that dry climate. 

In 1886, there were close upon 6,000 dwellings within 
the city walls, and about 24,000 forming- the various 
suburbs, containing a total population of about 180,000 
souls. Most of the houses were built merely of bamboos 
with mat walling, and their worth could not exceed about 
fifty rupees each (^3 6s. Sd.), even on a liberal estimate. 
The houses within the walls were cleared away on the 
British occupation, and the populace transferred to blocks 
well laid out to the south and west of the city, liberal 
compensation for disturbance being paid on a scale vary- 
ing according to the number of posts in each building. 

King Mindon's new capital was occupied in i860. His 
palace is a strange mixture of barbaric art and matter-of- 
fact utility. It Is a maze of buildings of all sorts and 
sizes chiefly constructed of teak-wood, richly carved and 
thickly gilded, or else resplendent with looking-glass 
mosaic of showy, tawdry description, though crudely 
effective from a distance. All these profusely decorated 
wooden bulldinsfs are roofed with corrupfated Iron. 

The principal entrance to the palace stockade was at 
the Tagdni or " Red Gate " on the eastern side. This 
was never opened except on great state occasions, and 
entrance could only be effected through a small door In 
the same, whereby one was forced, nolens volens, to bow 
the head In the direction of the palace as if making 
obeisance to the great central spire above the chief 

Immediately to the left of the Red Gate stands the 
tower enshrining the sacred tooth of Gaudama received 
long ago as a gift from the Emperor of China. In front 
of that Is the Hlutdaw or Great Council Hall and Hio^h 
Court. At some distance to the south is the miniature 
monastery, a gem of looking-glass mosaic work, to which 
Prince Thibaw withdrew for a time in order to perform 
the term of monkhood or religious retreat obligatory on 
all male Burmese. To the north of the main gate Is the 
bell-tower [Pahozin), from which the time of the day 
and night was told every third hour by beat of drum-gong. 
A little further on stand the three pagoda-like tombs of 



King Mindon and his two chief Queens, whose names 
were indirectly the cause of the foundation of this last 
capital of the kingdom of Ava. 

Of the palace buildings within the innermost wall the 
chief, occupying the most easterly position, is the My^ 
Nandaw or Imperial Palace, best known to Europeans 
as " the Centre of the Universe." This is a lofty nine- 
roofed spire {Pyatkat) with graduated roofs, ascending 
above the Lion throne at the end of the Great Hall^ of 
Audience {Yondaw). The only other very lofty erection 
among the palace buildings is the look-out tower to the 
south of the Centre of the Universe, built by Thibaw's 
Queen, Supayalat, where she used to enjoy the cool 
breeze in the evening, and from which she witnessed the 
entry of the British troops into the south gate of the city, 
at the close of November, 1885. A. little to the west 
of this tower, and adjoining the garden, was the open 
pavilion [Mandat), roofed only, but without any walls, 
where theatrical performances took place. 

The main buildings themselves were the various 
palaces of the King and his Queens, and the private 
apartments of the dowager-Queens and the maids of 
honour. They are now used as Government offices. 
The most artistic and the most interesting of all the 
buildings is the western hall containing the Lily throne, 
where ladies were received in audience. This now very 
appropriately forms the ladies' room of the Upper 
Burma Club. Here, on the further portion of the gilded 
doorway to the north of the throne, are the four finger- 
marks which have given rise to the story that they are 
bloodstains from one of Supayalat's victims. That she 
was jealous, cruel, and remorseless is a matter of fact ; 
but these red finger-prints have no connection with that. 
They are merely the effect of some incautious person 
coming from behind having opened the right-hand half of 
the door before the gilding had become thoroughly set 
and hardened, and ever since then the red grounding of 
cinnabar has shown through wherever the gold came 
partially away. However, this Burmese story of the 
palace tragedy is quite as good in its way as Rizzio's 
bloodstains in Holyrood, or as the stains made on the 



wall in the Wartburg at Eisenach when Luther threw 
the inkpot at the devil's head. There were only too 
many real tragedies of blood in the palace, without in- 
venting mere twaddle of that sort about any of them. 

To the north and the south of the western portion of 
the palace, which formed the ladies' apartments, there 
were ornamental gardens with spring-fed ponds and 
canals. Here, amid palms and umbrageous evergreen 
trees, the royal family took the air in the evening, while 
gliding along the canals in the royal barge or wandering 
through the grottoes and labyrinths strangely and won- 
derfully made of Portland cement. Quaint in every re- 
spect as to its rocks, its trees, its tiny lakes and canals, 
and the rustic bridges crossing these, the royal gardens 
form a charming lounge at any time of the day, and at 
any period of the year. But, to appreciate them to the 
full, one must visit them in the evening in April or May, 
when the thermometer has all day long been registering 
above ioo° in the shade. 

Within the palace there were eight thrones of carved 
teak wood, richly gilded, while a ninth occupied the 
central position in the Hlutdaw or State Council Cham- 
ber. The Lion throne at the western end of the great 
Hall of Audience, above which towers the lofty spire of 
the Centre of the Universe, was the principal throne 
occupied on solemn ceremonial occasions ; while the 
seven others were each used for special purposes. 
Seated on the Duck throne, placed further westward in 
the interior of the royal apartments and behind the Lion 
throne, the King received foreigners in audience. Be- 
hind that again, nearer to the centre of the royal cham- 
bers, stood the Water Festival throne used at the 
beginning of each new year in April. From the 
Elephant throne, in the Byedaik, the royal elephant was 
watched at exercise. The Snail throne, situated some- 
what southwards from the Duck -throne, was used only 
when the King signed a warrant for the appointment of 
an heir apparent who should succeed him on the throne. 
At the Deer throne, on the north side of the palace, the 
royal white elephant was met by the King on great 
occasions ; while directly opposite this, on the southern 



side of the palace buildings, stood the Peacock throne, 
from which the royal horses were inspected. The Lily 
throne, by far the most beautiful and most artistic of all, 
in front of which ladies were received, was situated at 
the western extremity of the palace. All of these 
thrones were elevated between four and five feet above 
the ground, so that their occupant should be raised well 
above the level of those receiving an audience and 
making obeisance on the floor below. In front of the 
Judgment throne in the Hlutdaw the floor was punctured 
with -|-" holes at fixed distances for the Ministers and 
other great officers of state, and for lesser notables sitting 
round the edge of the chamber. These small cross-holes 
were for passing up long pipe-stems to the lips of those 
seated on the floor, while the bowls were fed and lighted 
by attendants below ; for the building was raised seven or 
eight feet above the ground on piles. To have smoked 
cigars or the huge Burmese cheroots in the royal pre- 
sence or before the throne would have been a breach of 
etiquette, but the concession made in the Great Council 
Chamber showed how necessary smoking was appar- 
ently considered. 

The British Residency lay some distance to the west 
of the city, and the Resident was only permitted to enter 
the city walls by the western or " accursed " gate, through 
which corpses were conveyed, and the passage through 
which by any King meant the open avowal of abdication. 
The Residency was the property of the King. Apart 
from the British flag flown from the roof-top, there was 
nothing whatever to mark it with any of the importance 
which ought to have been attached to Her Majesty's 
representative at a foreign court. The compound or 
ground surrounding the house was roughly fenced in 
with bamboo matwork, supported by a framework of teak- 
wood, but it formed no defence capable of resisting any 
persistent attack. The gates were guarded by Burmese 
soldiers, who were in reality rather a band of spies 
making daily reports to the palace than a guard of 

The whole of the Residency staff resided within this 
buildmg, which also comprised the post office and the 



mixed court wherein, according to treaty all cases involv- 
ing British subjects were tried by a bench consisting of 
a British magistrate and a Burmese official. 

Intercourse between the townspeople and the Resi- 
dency was limited owing to the system of espionage in 
force ; and access to the palace was difficult, even when 
matters of importance required personal discussion. 

The services of the Residency Surgeon were some- 
times, however, invited in serious cases, but usually only 
after the patient had advanced to an almost moribund 
condition, and had been given up by the Burmese 
medicine men. Practice of this sort was not hankered 
after. In most cases, the doctor arrived too late to be of 
any use; and practice did not always prove lucrative. 
F'or example, after curing one of the Ministers of a 
severe internal disease, a doctor who was Residency Sur- 
geon for several years told me he was sent a gift of two 
cocoa-nuts and a bunch of plantains in return for his ser- 
vices. He had from time to time, however, opportuni- 
ties of seeing strange sights within the inner precincts 
of the palace. Thus, on one occasion, during King 
Mindon's time, about 1875, he saw the white elephant 
receiving its morning draught of human milk. About 
twenty women having been placed in a row, the elephant 
went behind each, put the tip of its trunk over the 
woman's shoulder, and sucked each breast dry of its 
milk. It was a disgusting sight, he said, to see the 
nervous state into which the women fell as the huge brute 
slowly made its way down the line. So nervous and 
excited did they become, that the milk even spouted from 
their breasts before these were touched by the big beast's 
trunk. But this feeding of the celestial Sadddn elephant 
was an act of great religious merit, and there never was 
lack of mothers to earn this for the sake of their souls in 
the next incarnation. 

A curious zoological fact with regard to a Burmese 
white elephant is that its skin need not necessarily be 
white. This may even be perfectly black ; but there'are 
other signs whereby the true nature of this pearl among 
brute animals may be known, despite any mere superficial 
shortcomings. Among these invariable signs one is 



the presence of a boss on the nape of the neck, just 
where this is joined on to the back of the skull. 

All ceremonies connected with royalty and court 
etiquette were duly prescribed and were carefully 
attended to in every particular, except on the part of the 
King, who followed antecedent customs only in so far as 
suited his convenience. When a King was pleased to 
ascend to the land of spirits— so ran the phrase for his 
demise — the royal white umbrella was broken, and the 
great drum-gong on the bell-tower at the eastern gate of 
the palace enclosure was perforated. These two customs 
were omitted on Mindon's death in 1878, as the parties 
intriguing to place Thibaw on the throne wished to com- 
plete all their arrangements before proclaiming the death 
of the late King. 

A white umbrella, the sign of sovereignty, was only 
carried over the King and his chief Queen. The white 
umbrella {Tipytt) was, in fact, one of the five articles 
reckoned as regalia, the other four being the crown 
(Makd), the sceptre (Thanlyet), the sandal [Chenin), and 
the fly-flap {Thdmyi Yat\ On receiving these insignia 
a new King was blessed by the Brahmins, and water was 
poured out, this ceremony [Adeiktheik) being the equiva- 
lent of the ancient custom practised elsewhere of anointing 
with oil. 

The use of golden umbrellas was permitted to the 
members of the royal family, the tributary chiefs, and the 
highest officials ; while officials of lower degree were 
allowed to have red umbrellas and large fans of a par- 
ticular shape borne over them. When high officials or 
members of the royal family passed along the streets, the 
way was prepared for them by lictors (Letyddaung) armed 
with stout long rattans, which they took much pleasure 
in using on any one within their reach. 

When any great personage went abroad, the whole of 
the roads along which he made his progress were fenced 
in trellis with " royal lattice-work" (Yazahmai) of bamboos 
or laths in front of all the houses, and the people were 
not permitted to approach from behind that. Indeed, it 
was considered much safer to retire altogether within 
their houses, and to peep only between the chinks of the 



bamboo-mat walls rather than allow themselves to be seen. 
It was not altogether safe for men, and often very unsafe 
for women if they happened to be young and good-look- 
ing, to fall under the eyes of great Princes or powerful 

The King himself, however, never went abroad of 
late years. Possession of the palace meant possession 
of the throne. If the King left the inner palace in- 
closure, he could never be quite sure that on his return 
he might not, in place of obtaining re-admission, have to 
flee through the western gate of the city in token of ab- 
dication. After the attempt on his life by two of his own 
sons, in 1866, King Mindon seldom went abroad from 
his palace, and King Thibaw probably never ventured 
outside of the fortified inclosure during the whole of the 
seven years of his reign. Thus the prescribed annual 
festival of breaking ground with the plough in the royal 
fields to the east of the city — " the blessed ceremony of 
ploughing" {Mingaldtun) — upon which the copiousness 
of the rains during the months of June to October was 
supposed to depend, fell into abeyance : and naturally, 
the people said, this led to the more frequent recurrence 
of years of insufficient rainfall, and of scarcity and 
grievous want among the people all throughout the dry 
zone. Thibaw never performed this ceremony, similar 
to that annually observed by the Emperor of China 
and by the Minister of Agriculture in Siam ; and this, 
the people said, was why drought became chronic and 
severe during his reign. 

The ladies of the royal household and their apart- 
ments were in charge of eunuchs {Memmas6)y who were 
only to be found at the capital and nowhere else in the 
country. None of the inferior Queens were permitted 
to reside within the main palace buildings when the time 
of their accouchement was at hand, but were removed to 
special apartments (Einneing) reserved for this pur- 
pose. When they went abroad to visit religious shrines, 
or for any other purpose, their mode of progress was in 
richly carved box-like carriages mounted upon two cart 
wheels. As these were small and had no springs, and 
as the roads were bad, unmetalled and full of deep ruts, 



a drive to any pagoda in the suburbs was hardly a 
pleasure. Men of high degree or filling great offices of 
State usually rode on elephants. 

Many of the royal ceremonies were peculiar, and all were 
directly or indirectly connected with the national religion. 
Two of these may perhaps be briefly mentioned as 
examples. Twice annually, at the great religious festivals 
of the new year in spring and of the termination of lent 
in autumn, the King's head was ceremoniously washed 
in water which used to be specially brought for this pur- 
pose to the capital from " the head wash island " {Gaung- 
zd-Gyun) between Martaban and Moulmein, near the 
mouth of the Salween river. This custom was continued 
till after the second Burmese war, when purified water 
from the Irrawaddy was used. It was then that the two 
greatest of the levies or receptions known as the Kaddw 
or " beg pardon " were held, when the court was en fete 
and all who were in any way connected with it, or had 
anything to hope from it, laid tribute or presents at the 
"golden feet" of the King. Every day the King wore 
a new silk waist-cloth {Pas6\ and as each was discarded 
after being once used it was lacquered in red, richly orna- 
mented with gold, and then cut into strips upon which 
the Pali text of the ordination service for monks [Kam- 
mawd) was written in Burmese characters with black 
varnish (Thitsi). 

So long as Mindon was able to hold the reins of 
government in his own hands matters within the royal 
city went on fairly well, although direct intercourse be- 
tween the British Resident and the King had even then 
for about three years been interrupted on account of the 
" shoe question " elsewhere referred to {vide page 30). 

There was, however, one ever-threatening cause of 
political disturbance connected with the succession to the 
throne. Early in his reign Mindon appointed as heir 
apparent his brother, to whom he was much attached. 
As the King's sons grew up, they deeply resented this 
nomination of their uncle ; so two of them, the Myingun 
and the Myingundaing Princes, rose in rebellion in 1866, 
and attempted to seize and dethrone their father while 
he was residing for a few days at a royal pleasure garden 



situated about a couple of miles to the south-east of the 
city. The King managed to escape, but the heir 
apparent was killed along with three of the King's sons 
and the Myadaung Mingyi, then Minister of War. The 
attempt thus proving futile, the rebel princes fled into 
British territory. For some years they were kept under 
supervision in Rangoon, till the Myingun Prince tried to 
escape, when they were both transferred for greater safety 
to Fort Chunar in Bengal. 

After that, King Mindon felt nervous about appointing 
an heir apparent, and his nervousness was not in any 
way dissipated by another of his sons, the Prince of 
Katha, heading an attempt to dethrone him in 1870. 
But although he must have known that his action was 
not what could be regarded as constitutional, Mindon 
would not appoint his successor. He had no lack of 
sons, duly qualified by blood, to choose from. His family 
by chief Queens, inferior Queens, and mere concubines 
numbered about a hundred, and about thirty of these 
were sons. But the number of Princes who had any 
special chance of finding sufficient support upon which 
to base aspirations to the throne was practically limited 
to about half a dozen. These were the Thonze, Mek- 
kayd, Myingun, Myingundaing, Nyaungyan, Nyaungok, 
and Thibaw Princes. The two first-named, the eldest, 
were unsuitable from their cruel and overbearing dis- 
position, while the next two had been outlaws and 
refugees under foreign protection since their dash for 
the throne in 1866. Hence the real issue as to succes- 
sion lay between the Nyaungyan, the Nyaungok, and 
the Thibaw Princes. 

It had always been understood that, rightly or wrongly, 
there were some doubts as to the parentity of the last 
named. Mindon had consequently often expressed his 
intention that this particular member of the royal family 
should not succeed him on the throne. Actuated either 
through personal fear, or else hoping to avert fratricidal 
bloodshed, he put off the nomination of an heir apparent 
till too late. By the middle of 1878 he was so ill as to 
be unable to exercise any real authority over affairs, and 
as early as August rumours of his decease had already 



begun to find their way into the various districts. The 
palace now became the scene of continuous intrigue by 
various parties, but definite action was taken early in 
September by the party then in power. 

It is said that, while on his deathbed, Mindon actually 
nominated the Nyaungyan Prince as heir apparent and 
successor. This seems to have been, in fact, by far the 
most suitable selection that could have been made. He 
was of pure royal blood, was very popular throughout 
the country, and was much esteemed and trusted by 
Mindon both on account of his intellectual qualities and 
his humane disposition. But It was now too late. The 
chief Queen had three daughters, Supaydgyi, Supayd- 
lat, and Supayagale. The young Thibaw Prince, son 
of a Queen of Shan extraction, was known to be ena- 
moured of one of these ; so Queen Sinpyumashin, an 
ambitious and crafty woman, resolved to secure the 
throne for him, raise all her three daughters to the 
highest queenly rank, and be the guiding hand control- 
ling the destiny of affairs through these, her puppets. 
The Taingda Mingyi, the most powerful of the Ministers, 
fell in with these plans ; and even the Kinwun Mingyi, 
the Prime Minister, was won over to the plot. A forged 
order, purporting to come from the King, was sent to 
all the royal Princes and Princesses, who were therein 
summoned to appear before his Majesty to hear his 
nomination of a successor and his last words of formal 
farewell. As they came to the royal apartments they 
were one by one seized and placed in confinement. Thus, 
on the 1 2th September all the Princes of the royal 
blood had been secured save two, the Nyaungyan and 
Nyaungok Princes, who, warned either by instinct or 
by some friendly hint, fled to the British Residency for 
protection. Opposition thus removed, Thibaw was pro- 
claimed heir apparent, and by ist October, when 
authentic news of Mindon's death had been received, 
he had ascended the throne without opposition. 

Following the usual custom. King Thibaw made Su- 
payagyi, one of the late King's favourite daughters, his 
chief Queen, but she absolutely refused to be his consort 
in anything more than name. So her sister, Supaya- 



lat, virtually became chief Queen ; while later on Supaya- 
gale, the youngest, was likewise raised to queenly rank. 
These Princesses represented the purest of the pure royal 
blood. Their father was a son of King Tharrawaddi, 
while their mother was a daughter of Nanmadaw Me 
Nu, chief Queen of Bagyidaw. 

But the Dowager Chief Queen had miscalculated. No 
sooner had she succeeded in crushing anything like power 
and authority in the case of the Kinwun Mingyi, Minister 
of Foreign Affairs, than she found herself checkmated in 
her ambitious designs and forced into the position of an 
absolute nonentity by her daughter Supayalat. Master- 
ful to a degree, ambitious, and jealous in every possible 
way, Supaydlat very soon showed that she intended to 
domineer over her lord and master and to rule the palace, 
and consequently the national affairs, without permitting 
either King, Queen Dowager, or Ministers to have very 
much to say in the matter. And, as might have been ex- 
pected with such a woman, her opinions and actions were 
far more influenced by the brutal and ruffianly Taingda 
Mingyi than by any of the more reputable of the nominally 
responsible Ministers of the King. 

The political situation of the British Resident had by 
this time become unduly strained. The treaties in force 
were not respected, while British subjects and their com- 
mercial interests involved in Upper Burma were wan- 
tonly injured, redress for wrongs being tacitly refused. 
Everywhere throughout the country affairs had run riot, 
and life and property were insecure. 

In February, 1879, Supayalat had obtained Thibaw's 
consent to the " clearance " of many of the Princes who 
were of political importance, though no conspiracy of 
any sort was on foot. On the 15th, i6th, and 17th men, 
women and children of royal blood, all the near relatives 
of the King and the Queen, were massacred in cold blood 
at Supayalat's instigation, prompted by the Taingda 
Mingyi. Neither infancy nor old age afforded protec- 
tion from the bloodthirstiness suddenly developed. The 
aged uncle of the Nyaungyan Prince, an old man stand- 
ing on the brink of the grave, who had been Governor 
of Pegu in 1852, was among the victims, but these also 

209 p 


included children of the tenderest age. Infants were even 

torn from their mothers' arms, and their brams dashed 

out against the wall before their parents' eyes. And 

" all this was effected tinder the superintendeiice of the 

personal followers of the Kingl' as Mr. Shaw, the British 

Resident, reported officially to the Government of India 

The women and children were buried in the jail yard 

within the palace precincts, but eight cartloads of corpses 

of Princes of the royal blood were borne, wrapped in red 

velvet sacks, through the "accursed" western gate and 

thrown into the river Irrawaddy according to precedent 

and custom. In September more massacres occurred, 

and in November of 1879 they were continued, as all 

the scions of the royal stock had not yet been cut off. 

Among those then released from confinement and thus 

freed from their present human incarnation was poor 

Supayagyi, the nominal chief Queen by virtue of haying 

been the Tabindaing Princess on Thibaw's accession. 

Apparently all along in love with the Nyaungyan 

Prince, and maybe the one who sent him a friendly hint 

to flee, she had recently attempted to administer poison 

to Thibaw and Supayalat, her own half-brother and 

sister. But failing in this attempt to stop bloodshed, 

butchery, and general oppression, she had to pay forfeit 

with her life ; for Supayalat was not a person likely to 

spare even her own sister after that sort of crime. 

While the walls within the inner palace enclosure were 
thus being stained red with royal blood, everything was 
done to provide mirth and amusement for the citizens 
and the suburban population, and to distract their attention 
from ruminating over the reports that leaked out about 
the carnage going on within the palace. These reports 
could not be stifled. The ghastly procession of carts 
with the corpses of the murdered Princes could not but 
tell its own horrible tale, and corpses of common folks 
were even intentionally exposed to public view. 

Within the palace the state of affairs was desperate, 
and Thibaw, "the Excellent King of the Rising 
Sun and Lord of the White Elephant," bullied by the 
termagant Supayalat and no doubt horrified by the 
bloodshed ordered in a moment of terror, or of alco- 



holic excitement, or of both, was probably one of the 
most miserable of all the men within his kingdom, for at 
this time, though he had been a Patama Byan, or graduate 
with the highest possible honours in theology, he fell far 
below the usual standard of Burmese Buddhists with 
regard to abstinence and self-denial. A few years before 
he had attained, as a novice, the highest honours at the 
public examination in religious philosophy held annually 
in the Thudamd hall ; and as King he was virtually the 
head of Burmese Buddhism. Hence, if he had any 
belief at all in the doctrines enunciated by Gaudama, he 
must have felt convinced that in the next state of exist- 
ence he was doomed to fearful torments in one of the 
lowest regions in hell. No wonder he was dismayed 
and despairing about his future existence, as well as 
wretched and miserable about the rung he now occupied 
in the " ladder of existence." 

So he lost faith in everything. Even the Weza or 
soothsayer in whom he placed most confidence fell into 
disgrace during the spring of 1879, was degraded, and 
had to flee from the wrath of the King, while the attend- 
ant or disciple whom he left behind was thrown into 
prison. On his flight a rival soothsayer of Minhla, near 
the frontier, boldly declared that this previously much- 
honoured personage was no seer at all, but merely a 
common demon who had been enabled to assume the 
form of a man by means of the arts of a sorcerer ; and 
this sorcerer was, the new authority affirmed, no other 
than the supposed disciple now in the royal prison. So 
the poor unoffending servant was executed at the sug- 
gestion of the new soothsayer, who also strongly advised 
a change of capital back to Amarapura. But this was 
out of the question, for obvious reasons. 

Thibaw became almost demented with terror when the 
British Resident withdrew from Mandalay in the autumn 
of 1879. Knowing that the political and commercial 
courses he was pursuing must sooner or later bring him 
into conflict with the Government of India, he suddenly 
developed frenzied proclivities for soldiering, which his 
Ministers were unable to check. And even if he had 
recollected sufficient of the ancient Jewish Old Testament 



history— for, when about twelve years of age, he was sent 
to be taught EngHsh and western wisdom at the Manda- 
lay Mission School of the Society for the Propagation 
of the Gospel— to know that Jehosaphat was promised 
the throne of Israel for four generations because, in 
slaughtering the seventy sons of Ahab, ''he had done 
that which was right in the sight of the Lordl' yet he 
must have known quite well that that piece of ancient 
history could hardly be considered as parallel with the 
massacre, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, of 
about four times as many innocent victims who were his 
own nearest relatives. 

So the state of affairs within the heart of the Golden 
City was dreadful. Thibaw's mother appealed to the 
Dowager chief Queen, beseeching her to stay the ruth- 
less follies of Thibaw and Supayalat ; but in vain. Tlie 
royal couple were now quite incapable of being restrained, 
and the only advice they seemed to listen to was the 
fatal promptings of the ignorant and brutal Taingda 
Mingyi, urging them on to conflict with the British. 

The story has been told in another chapter of how 
political and commercial matters gradually drifted from 
bad to worse within the golden city, and how intrigues 
with foreign powers, and blunt refusal to submit to proper 
judicial enquiry certain grave charges raised against an 
influential trading corporation, ultimately led to the third 
Burmese war in 1885. How strange it was that the 
first procession which Thibaw and his Queens made 
through their capital was when, driven in a cart passing 
between files of British troops and furnished with a guard 
of honour of British soldiers, they passed, for the first 
time since the summer of 1878 and for the first time 
during Thibaw's reign, through the Red Gate at the east 
side of the palace enclosure and were conveyed by the 
southern gate of the golden city westwards to the river 
bank for embarkation on board the Thooreah ( Thuryd), 
"the Sun" — appropriate name for the steamer which 
was to bear the King of the Rising Sun away from his 
dominions into lifelong exile in a foreign land. 

While thus reaping the fruits of his own wickedness 
and folly, Thibaw was spared the deepest indignity of 



being made to pass through the "accursed" western 
gate of the city. But his cup of bitterness and remorse 
was full enough without that, although the degrading 
insult of being forced to come and go by that gate had 
from time immemorial been thought good enough treat- 
ment for the various British Envoys and Residents who 
had visited any of the capitals of the kingdom of Burma 
during the previous century and a quarter. 


chapter IX 


AT the end of 1899, for the first time in her history, 
Burma was absolutely free from organized dacoity ; 
not a single dacoit gang was known to be in existence 
within the boundaries of the province. Before that, 
although the main efforts for the pacification of Upper 
Burma could be considered as crowned with success by 
the end of 1890, it was not to be expected that all 
trouble was then at an end. There still remained a 
great deal to be done among the frontier tribes inhabit- 
ing the forest-clad hills all round the northern borders 
marching with Siam, China, Assam, Manipur, and 

Early in 1891 the chiefs of the Shan States 01 
Wuntho and Kale, lying west of the Irrawaddy and 
west of the Chindwin, conspired with a view to a 
general rising along with Manipur, and the Wuntho 
Sawbwa broke into open rebellion. Both were deposed, 
and their States were incorporated into the existing 
districts of Upper Burma. 

In the Chin hills raids continued to occur, which 
necessitated the infliction of severe punishment on the 
Kanhdw and Baungshe tribes. In 1891 many of the 
Chin chiefs were brought down to Rangoon to be 
shown the wonders of civilization, and the power and 
extent of British rule ; but some of them were so little 
impressed thereby that they broke into revolt soon after 
their return to the fastnesses within their native hills. 
Columns were therefore sent to explore and subjugate 
the whole of the Chin tracts, levying and fixing tribute, 
recognizing or appointing tribal chiefs, releasing slaves 



kidnapped in raids, imposing fines or burning con- 
tumacious villages wherever necessary, and opening out 
mule tracks. The only real difficulties encountered by 
the military were the physical obstructions offered by the 
mountainous nature of the densely forested country 
operated in ; for the rainy season, during which opera- 
tions had to be suspended, came early and was late of 
ceasing, so that an expedition could seldom complete its 
work effectively during one short field season. Thus, 
when, in October, 1892, the Siyin and Nwengal tribes 
revolted, and, ambushing a party, killed a Burmese 
magistrate and eleven of his men, operations promptly 
taken at a cost of casualties exceeding seventy on the 
British side crushed the rebellion : but the operations 
had to be continued in the following open season before 
the rebel leaders were all captured and the tribes 
thoroughly disarmed and subjugated. This was, how- 
ever, effected in due time, and the Chin hills were 
brought under the jurisdiction of a political officer 
stationed at Faldm. In all, about 7,000 guns were 
taken from the tribesmen. In 1894 a battalion of 
military police was substituted for the military garrison 
of the northern posts, and in 1896 a similar change was 
effected in the Southern Chin hills ; while the increased 
security for life and property was naturally accompanied 
by an expansion of trade and greater freedom of inter- 
course with the adjacent districts on the plains. 

Among the Kachin tribes much also remained to be 
done. Early in 1891 the Kaukkwe valley was quieted, 
and a post was established at the Jade Mines, while 
columns were also sent south-eastwards from Bhamo to 
reduce to order the wild tribes dwelling in the forests 
north of the Shweli river. To the north-east of the 
Bhamo district nothing had yet been done to bring the 
hill tribes under control ; but repeated outrages com- 
mitted by the Kachins, the Alsatian character that this 
tract had acquired as a refuge for outlaws and bad 
characters, and the necessity of preventing the importa- 
tion into Burma of illicit opium, liquor, and arms from 
Yunnan, involved operations being undertaken in the 
open seasons of 1891--92 and 1892-93. As the result 



of these expeditions, some of which met with consider- 
able resistance, strong posts of military police were 
established along the Chinese border at Namkhan on 
the Shweli river, and northwards at Nampaung, Sima, 
and Sadon, or Fort Harrison, as the last was called after 
an officer who defended it with great gallantry when the 
small garrison there was besieged by a large number of ' 
Kachins. After the military operations civil officers 
moved about the hills with moderate escorts, collecting 
tribute, settling disputes, and meeting with little or no 

In 1894 the policy to be adopted in the Kachin hills 
was definitely fixed. The point where the Malikha 
("good water") and the Maikha ("bad water") join to 
form the Irrawaddy river, about twenty- five miles north 
of the flourishing new town of Myitkyina, was taken as 
the northern limit of active administration, which was to 
include all the tracts lying south of the Maikha to the 
east of the Irrawaddy, on its left bank, and on the right 
bank all the country lying south of a line drawn from the 
confluence of the Malikha and the Maikha westwards 
through the northern limit of Labdn, including the Jade 
Mines. So long as the tribes to the north of this 
administrative boundary abstained from raiding into the 
tracts south of it, it was notified to them that they would 
not be interfered with. In order to carry out this 
scheme a new district, Myitkyina, was formed in 1895, 
while the Kachin Hill Tribes Regulation was passed to 
legalize the procedure previously in force, and was 
extended to various hill tracts throughout the northern 
districts. Since then the establishment of law and 
order has proceeded regularly and satisfactorily, and con- 
siderable progress has even been made in the extremely 
difficult matter of settling disputes between Kachin 
tribes on different sides of the frontier line separating 
Burma from China. 

Throughout the northern and the southern Shan 
States satisfactory advances continued to be made in the 
matter of introducing more orderly methods of adminis- 
tration than had previously been in force. During the 
open seasons of 1890-91 and 1891-92 the two Super- 



intendents were busy with the work of revenue in- 
spection and house-counting^, with a view to making 
better arrangements for the assessment of tribute, in 
bringing the distant State of Manglun under regular 
control, and in visiting Kengtung with a view to placing 
matters there on a satisfactory footing — for the young 
Sawbwa was proving far from amenable to the control of 
the Superintendent. In 1891 the customary law of the 
Shan States was modified by a short and simple set of 
rules designed to serve the purpose of Penal and 
Criminal Procedure Codes among a primitive people. 
In 1892-93 the demarcation of the boundary between 
the southern Shan States and Siam was accomplished 
satisfactorily as far north as Kengcheng, the Siamese 
Commissioners working in perfect accord with the 
Superintendent ; while in the northern States an ex- 
pedition was made into the wild Wa country. In the 
following year a partial demarcation was made of the 
boundary between Kengtung and Kengcheng, an assistant 
political officer was stationed at Kengtung, and steps 
were taken to promote cordial relations between that 
State and the Siamese tracts on its borders. As affairs 
in Kengtung continued unsatisfactory, it was in 1894-95 
reduced from occupying a position of subordinate alliance 
with British India to precisely the same status as the 
other Shan States, a small garrison was established at 
the capital, and it was connected with Fort Stedman by 
a telegraph line and by a mule track capable of being 
used throughout the year. The young Sawbwa, who 
had married a daughter of the Thibaw Sawbwa, died in 
1895; and the State of Kengtung, which had recently 
been enlarged by the m- Mekong districts of Kengcheng, 
was provisionally placed in charge of the late chief's 
brother till the succession could be decided. The Keng- 
cheng territories thus attached to Kengtung accepted the 
new situation loyally, and the partition of the State to 
the west of the Mekong river led to no difficulties 
with the French, who thereby became our neighbours. 
Cordial relations were maintained with Siam, and there 
was no trouble with the Chinese of Kenghung and 

Mong Lem. 



The maintenance of peace and order and the abroga- 
tion of tolls were already bearing fruit in a considerable 
expansion of trade throughout the Shan States. In 
1894-95 the southern Shan States exports and imports 
amounted to over /36,666, having more than doubled 
themselves within the last year or two, and the several 
chiefs were beginning to take an intelligent interest in 
the development of the resources of their States. 
Among other reforms introduced, the financial arrange- 
ments of the States were placed on a sound footing. 
Budget estimates were drawn up and revenue registers 
kept in specific forms ; unauthorized demands were not 
to be made ; and the inhabitants of each village or circle 
were to know exactly how much they were required to pay. 

In May, 1895, Sir Frederick Fryer, who had acted as 
loaim tenens from 23rd May, 1892, to 2nd May, 1894, and 
had substantively succeeded Sir Alexander Mackenzie in 
the Chief Commissionership of Burma on 3rd April, 
1895, held a durbar at Taunggyi, to which the head- 
quarters of the Superintendent had recently been 
removed from Fort Stedman. Here, for the first time, 
chiefs from all parts of the southern Shan States, from 
the territories beyond the Salween, as well as from cis- 
Salween tracts, and all the chiefs of Karenni came 
together. Early in 1896 he also held durbars at Tiddim, 
Falam and Hdka in the Chin hills. Many of the more 
important of the Shan chiefs, as well as a number of 
Chin chieftains from the western mountain range, had 
also been present at the durbars held in Rangoon and 
Mandalay, when Lord Lansdowne visited Burma towards 
the end of 1893, before laying down his viceroyalty. 
Representative Kachin chiefs from all parts of the 
northern hills had also been presented to His Excellency 
at Bhamo. 

Throughout the whole of the more setded and the 
regularly administered portions of the province a steady 
advance was being made such as had characterized the 
province of British Burma before the annexation of the 
kingdom of Ava. The decennial census taken on the 
night of 26th February, 1891, was carried out over the 
whole province without difficulty or disturbance, and 


CENSUS OF 1 89 1 

probably afforded a fairly accurate record of the popula- 
tion. The enumeration gave a total of 8,098,014 souls, 
of whom 4,658,627, occupying- 869,132 houses, were in 
Lower Burma, 3,063,426 in Upper Burma, and 375,961 
in the northern and southern Shan States. The 
population of Lower Burma had increased from 2f 
millions in 1872, to nearly 3f millions in 1881, and 4% 
millions in 1891 ; but the maximum and the minimum 
density of population were both to be found in Upper 
Burma, with 178 to the square mile in Mandalay 
district and only 5*23 to the square mile in the wild 
forest district of the Upper Chindwin. A not incon- 
siderable share of the increase in Lower Burma was due 
to immigration from India, especially from Madras, and 
from Upper Burma, from which large numbers fled during 
the troublous times following the annexation ; but now 
that the northern portion had been brought into a settled 
condition, emigrants to Lower Burma flocked back 
across the frontier to secure to themselves the rights 
to the land which they had formerly possessed. The 
removal of restrictions on trade and liberty now also 
operated naturally to check the stream of emigration 
from Upper Burma, while the abolition of exemption 
from capitation tax formerly granted to the newly- 
arrived immigrant into Lower Burma assisted in the 
same direction. 

When Lord Lansdowne in November and December, 
1893, paid a viceregal visit to Burma, towards the close 
of the tenure of his high ofiice, it was practically decided 
that the position and importance of the province was 
such as to render necessary its transformation from a 
local administration to a local government. After the 
first Burmese war the ceded sea-board provinces of 
Arakan and Tenasserim were administered by Commis- 
sioners, and after the annexation of Pegu, in 1852, the 
new territory was also placed under another Commis- 
sioner until it had been reduced to order and quietude. 
On 31st January, 1862, these three commissionerships 
were amalgamated and formed into a local administration 
called British Burma, Lieut. -Colonel (afterwards Sir 
Arthur) Phayre being made Chief Commissioner and 



Agent to the Governor- General in Council. It was then 
placed on the same level as the Central Provinces of 
India ; but, from early in the seventies, the exceptional 
importance of Burma as a local administration was shown 
by the fact that the ablest among the coming men in 
India were sent to administer the province. The first 
two Chief Commissioners, Colonels Phayre and Fytche, 
were members of the Indian Staff Corps; but, from 1873 
onwards, the appointment was filled only by covenanted 
members of the Beno^al Civil Service. The roll of Chief 
Commissioners included successively the men who 
achieved Indian fame as Sir Ashley Eden, Sir Augustus 
Rivers Thompson, Sir Charles Aitchison, Sir Charles 
Bernard, Sir Charles Crosthwaite, and Sir Alexander 
Mackenzie. All of these, — with the exception of Sir 
Charles Bernard, the breakdown of whose health under 
the strain of the troublous times immediately before and 
after the annexation of Upper Burma prematurely termi- 
nated his brilliant Indian career, — after holding charge of 
Burma, were subsequently promoted to seats on the Vice- 
regal Council and to lieutenant-governorships of Bengal, 
the Punjab, or the North- West Provinces. 

That the province, now greatly increased by Upper 
Burma, and the Shan States, stood on quite a different 
plane from the other local administrations under the 
Government of India, and involved under higher responsi- 
bilities than the other chief commissionerships, had been 
previously acknowledged by raising the pay of the ap- 
pointment from 50,000 rupees to 80,000 rupees (^^3,333 
to £s>33Z) P^J" annum, thus giving it emoluments equal to 
those drawn by members of the Viceregal Council, and 
by granting to Burma the practical status of a local 
government with regard to powers of sanction and the 
control of financial matters in various departments of 
Government. Financial pressure intervened, however, 
to prevent the Government of India from taking the 
necessary steps towards moving the Secretary of State 
to sanction the transformation of the chief commissioner- 
ship into a lieutenant-governorship, and to have the 
necessary legislation carried through. It was, there- 
fore, not until ist May, 1897, that Burma became a 



lieutenant-governorship, having a separate Government 
and a Legislative Council of its own. 

The first Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Frederick Fryer, 
had originally been sent down from the Punjab to Upper 
Burma in 1886, as soon as it had been decided to incor- 
porate the kingdom of Ava with the British possessions, 
and bring it under direct administration. After filling 
for some time a divisional commissionership, he had 
been selected for the financial commissionership on that 
appointment being formed in June, 1888, but had subse- 
quently returned to his old province, the Punjab. From 
May, 1892, to May, 1894, he had officiated as Chief- 
Commissioner during the absence of Sir Alexander 
Mackenzie on long leave to Europe, and on 3rd April, 
1895, he had substantively succeeded to the appointment, 
after acting for some time as a member of the Viceregal 
Council. For a term of five years from May, 1897, the 
province now became assured of an administrator who 
had a much more intimate knowledge of the province 
and its people than had been brought to the task of 
government by any of his predecessors since the days 
of the two military proconsuls, Phayre and Fytche. 

At the head of the Administration is the Lieutenant- 
Governor, who exercises the powers of a local govern- 
ment in respect of all the territories forming the province 
of Burma as constituted by the Upper Burma Laws 
Act, 1886, and who exercises political control over the 
wild tribes of the Chin hills and over Karenni, a small 
independent State in subordinate alliance with the British 

The disposal of Secretariat business is conducted by 
three departments controlled by a Chief Secretary, a 
Revenue Secretary, and a Secretary, together with 
Under Secretaries. From these various departments 
business is transmitted by the Secretary-in-Charge for 
the orders of the Lieutenant-Governor; but in place of 
proceeding back direct to each department, the boxes of 
records filter through the Chief Secretary, who is thus 
kept in constant touch with what is passing in the other 
two departments, and has the opportunity of making any 
suggestions which may occur to him. 



The various secretaries and the heads of departments 
have each a specified morning for waiting upon His Honour 
the Lieutenant-Governor, while in residence at the head- 
quarters of Government, Rangoon, for reporting upon 
current business, and receiving his instructions as to its 
disposal. Other responsible officials who have no fixed 
days for discussion of business can always, when necessary, 
arrange for a special interview through the Private 
Secretary. Once a week, at noon, officials at large are 
afforded an opportunity of bringing before His Honour's 
notice any matters in which they are personally interested ; 
for, of course, apart from personal matters, the official 
communications of subordinate officers with the Local 
Government must proceed through the prescribed 
channel, the head of the department and the Secre- 
tariat. A Private Secretary and an Aide-de-Camp 
assist the Lieutenant-Governor in the transaction of 
business which does not pass through the Secretariat, 
and in the arrangements for the social, the sumptuary, 
and the ceremonial duties attached to this highest office 
in the province. Like all Orientals, the Burmese love 
ostentation and ceremonial observances not only on public 
occasions, but even in the every-day routine connected 
with the high officials ruling over them. In this respect 
it is far easier for a mistake to be made in the way of 
omission than by paying strict attention to ceremonial 
and official display. 

For legislative purposes connected with the province 
the Lieutenant-Governor is assisted by a Legislative 
Council consisting of nine members, five of whom are 
appointed by him as official members, and the remaining 
four are non-official members, selected from among 
merchants and others. Bills affecting local requirements 
passed by this Council became law on receiving the 
sanction of the Governor- General, without being re^rred 
to the Indian Legislative Council; though, of course, 
the functions of the Council are limited strictly to purely 
provincial matters. 

Owing to differences in legislative status, the primary 
administrative division of Burma is into Lower Burma, 
and Upper Burma (including the Shan States). Ex- 



elusive of the Shan States, Upper Burma is a scheduled 
district. While the law in force there is being gradually 
assimilated to that applied in Lower Burma, there are 
still considerable divergrences. For the executive ad- 
ministration of the province, exclusive of the Chin 
hills and the States on the Shan plateau, there are eight 
Commissioners of Divisions, under whom are the thirty- 
six Deputy Commissioners in charge of districts. As 
throughout India, the district forms the real unit of 
administration in Burma. The thirty-six districts are 
divided, for judicial and revenue purposes, into eighty-one 
subdivisions, held by Assistant Commissioners and extra 
Assistant Commissioners; and these again consist of 
townships, each under a Myo Ok or " town magistrate," 
forming the smaller units of regular civil and revenue 
jurisdiction. Lower Burma is divided into four com- 
missionerships, including twenty districts, with thirty-nine 
subdivisions ; while Upper Burma also has four com- 
missionerships, comprising sixteen districts, with forty- 
two subdivisions. 

The chief civil officer ranking next in position and 
authority below the Lieutenant-Governor is the Financial 
Commissioner. He is, subject to the control of the 
Lieutenant-Governor, the Chief Revenue Authority, and 
also undertakes the duties of Chief Customs Autho- 
rity, Inspector-General of Registration, and Commis- 
sioner of Excise and Stamps. His most important work 
is connected with land revenue and agriculture, in 
which he is assisted by a Settlement Commissioner, two 
Secretaries, and a Director of Land Records and Agricul- 
ture, with a Land Records Departmental Staff. 

As the methods of collecting the land revenues and 
the system of survey and settlement are elsewhere 
described (in the chapter on " Land Tenure and the 
Revenue Settlement") no details need here be given 
concerning these matters. 

During the official year, 1899- 1900, the collections 
of civil revenue in the departments controlled by the 
Financial Commissioner amounted to ;^2,878,298, and 
it exceeded this two years earlier. The principal item 
towards this total is the land revenue proper of Lower 



Burma yielding ;^928,488, while customs bring in 
^643,318. Except when years of scarcity occur in the 
dry central zone of Upper Burma, the Thdthamddd or 
house tax yields over ;/^ 390,000, while the capitation tax 
in Lower Burma, assessed at five rupees a head for 
married men, three rupees for widowers, and two rupees 
for adult bachelors, brings in nearly ^300,000, levied 
from considerably over one million men. Exemptions 
from payment of this latter tax have to be made when 
calamities occur locally from flooding of crops or other 
causes, and on the average over a hundred thousand 
persons are thus exempted annually. The incidence of 
assessment connected with land revenue levied directly or 
indirectly cannot be correctly stated. The incidence of 
land revenue per acre of cultivated land is just over 
two rupees (2^. 8^.) in Lower Burma, while it is close 
upon two rupees in Upper Burma, or between three 
and four rupees (45'. to ^s. 4d.) per head of population 
in the tracts assessed. Fisheries in Lower Burma, chiefly 
in the /u or " lakes " formed throughout the low-lying 
deltoid tracts after the summer monsoon floods have 
receded, realize from ^120,000 to over ^130,000 
annually. They are usually disposed of by auction, 
being let for several years to tenants who manufacture 
on a large scale the Ngapi or salted fish, the national 
condiment eaten with curry and rice. This dainty, 
beloved by the Burmese, is a loathsome and evil-smelling 
moist preparation of fish, pickled and pressed with coarse 
salt; and it is very largely imported along with Nga- 
chdiik, or sun-dried fish, into Upper Burma and the Shan 
States, where the supply of salt is not so favourable as 
throughout Lower Burma. Opium, imported from 
Bengal, though also grown by the Shans in Upper 
Burma and the Shan States, brings in over ^180,000, 
and excise (including salt) over ^190,000. Rents from 
State lands in Upper Burma, the old " royal fields," 
bring in upwards of ^131,000, while nearly ^100,000 
more are classified as miscellaneous land revenue. By 
far the greater portion of this latter sum, over four-fifths 
of it in fact, is realized from Upper Burma, on account 
of revenue from fisheries, water rates from irrigated 



tracts, and royalties from the Ruby Mines and from the 
petroleum wells of Yenangyaung and its vicinity. 
Stamps produce an income of nearly ^130,000, and 
income tax ^70,000, of which one-fourth consists of 
deductions from the salaries of officials. With the 
exception of the town of Mandalay and of civil officers, 
residents in Upper Burma are exempt from the operation 
of this unpopular tax, which might well be remitted for 
all that it brings in. Officials in any case might be 
exempted, for Burma is admittedly the most expensive 
province to be stationed in, and the days of exceptionally 
rapid promotion in any of the civil departments are now 
at an end ; nor are they likely to return again till some 
further political move takes place like the Administra- 
tion of Yunnan, or the Protection of Siam. 

Traffic in opium is regulated by the Opium Regulations 
of 1894. As a general rule the possession of opium in 
any part of Burma, except for medical purposes, is 
forbidden to Burmese ; but those who have become 
habituated to the drug were permitted to register them- 
selves as opium consumers, for the purpose of getting 
certificates authorizing them to obtain and possess the 
drug in small quantities. The registration of such 
Burmese opium consumers was carried on from Feb- 
ruary, 1893, to the end of June, 1894, when the registers 
were closed. Since the latter date no Burmese have been 
registered except such as can show sufficient cause for 
the omission of registering themselves while the registers 
were open, such as, for example, absence from Burma 
during the period allowed for registration. Persons of 
other than Burmese race are permitted to possess opium 
in small quantities. 

Concurrently with the registration of Burmese opium 
consumers a census of non- Burmese consumers was also 
taken, and the twofold data thus obtained were used as 
a basis for making a rough estimate of the total quantity 
of opium annually required to supply the requirements 
of those legally entitled to purchase and possess opium. 
On this basis the maxima quantities of opium are fixed 
which may be issued to the twenty-six retail vendors 
licensed in different parts of the province. These opium 

225 Q 


shops are mostly in Lower Burma. Those in Upper 
Burma are only in the chief towns, and along the frontiers, 
where they are absolutely required to meet the needs of 
non- Burmese consumers. Even with these arrangements 
illicit opium traffic is rife along the northern frontier, for 
opium is grown largely by the Shans and much more 
largely still throughout Yunnan. The retail-vend licences 
are sold by public auction in the Deputy Commissioner's 
court, and are entirely in the hands of Chinamen. The 
licensed vendor may from time to time obtain from the 
Government Treasury as small supplies of opium as he 
pleases, but the total quantity to be supplied to him 
during the year must not exceed the estimated maximum. 

As many opium consumers live in places remote from 
any licensed retail shop, steps have been taken to provide 
such persons with the means of obtaining opium legally 
by permitting the sale of opium at the Government 
Treasury by, or in the presence of, a gazetted officer to 
those permitted by law to possess opium. Previous to 
April, 1894, the maximum quantity of opium permitted 
to be possessed by any individual consumer was ten tolas 
(3f ounces), but this was then reduced to three tolas (i-|- 
ounces), and the possession of opium by Burmese doctors 
and tattooers for professional purposes was legalized. 
Early in 1896 the price of Bengal opium was raised by 
one rupee per sir (2^ lb.), and the duty on Chinese and 
Shan-Chinese opium by two rupees a viss (3'65 lb.). 
To defeat a combination of Chinamen the retail shop at 
Tavoy was closed, and retail sales were made to legal 
consumers from the Treasury. Stringent measures are 
everywhere taken to prevent opium smuggling, and the 
Opium Regulations have been framed and worked so as 
to prevent Burmese from becoming consumers of the 
drug ; but it is still doubtful if the consumption of opium 
has really been diminished by the restrictive measures 

The Commissioners of Divisions are responsible to 
the Lieutenant-Governor for the working of every de- 
partment of the public service, except the Military 
Department and the branches of the Administration 
directly under the control of the Imperial Government. 



They are also ex-officio Sessions Judges in their several 
divisions, and have civil powers under the Lower Burma 
Courts Act, 1889, and Upper Burma Civil Justice Regu- 
lation, 1886, in addition to powers as revenue officers 
under the Land and Revenue Act, 1876, and the Upper 
Burma Land and Revenue Regulation, 1889. The 
Commissioners of the Mandalay and the Meiktila divi- 
sions, in Upper Burma, also supervise certain of the 
minor Shan States adjoining the eastern boundaries of 
their divisions. 

The Deputy Commissioners perform the functions of 
District Magistrates, District Judges, Collectors and 
Registrars, and the various miscellaneous duties which 
fall to the real unit representative of Government. Each 
has not only his own special and onerous duties as a 
judge in civil and criminal cases, and as the chief 
authority in revenue matters, but he has also the control 
of the Police, the Public Works, and the Forest business 
throughout his district ; for it is laid down that the 
District Superintendent of Police, the Executive En- 
gineer, and the Deputy Conservator of Forests are the 
assistants of the district officer in their special depart- 
ments. There is practically nothing whatever connected 
with the administration from which the unfortunate 
Deputy Commissioner escapes responsibilities, some 
nominal, but others real and heavy, either by direct pro- 
visions of the Acts or Regulations, or else by some 
resolution or executive order of Government. Even if 
the day were to consist of forty-eight hours in place of 
merely twenty-four, and if he could toil incessantly 
throughout the whole of these day after day, it would be 
next to impossible, except in a few of the lighter district 
charges, for the Deputy Commissioner to do personally, 
in anything like a satisfactory and conscientious manner, 
the multifarious duties prescribed for him. And, of 
course, the tendency always is to increase these in place 
of lightening the burdens already put upon him. 

Burma is a non-regulation province, that is to say, the 
Commission is recruited, as in the Punjab and the 
Central Provinces, by young covenanted civilians ap- 
pointed from England, by the selection of young military 



officers from the Indian Staff Corps, and by the nomina- 
tion of others not belonging to any covenanted or com- 
missioned service; whereas in the regulation provinces 
of Bengal and the North- West Provinces appointments 
are now limited solely to the members of the Indian 
Civil Service. 

Before the annexation of Upper Burma, the Burma 
Commission consisted of 62 officers, but its strength was 
gradually raised to 123 by the end of 1889. Prospects 
of promotion in the Burma Commission are now less 
favourable than in any of the other provinces, as the 
Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners are all com- 
paratively young men. This is the natural result of the 
floodtide of promotion which set in after the annex- 

The Myo Ok or township officer is the ultimate repre- 
sentative of Government who comes into direct and 
close personal contact with the people. Below these in 
the towns there are headmen of wards and elders of 
blocks, an arrangement of recent origin and modelled on 
the Upper Burma village system ; while in the rural 
tracts the village headmen are assisted in Lower Burma 
by SHngaung or rural policemen in charge of ten 
houses, and in Upper Burma by elders of various de- 
signations. In Lower Burma the village system is in a 
state of transition. Up till 1889 the collection of land 
revenue and capitation tax was entrusted to Taikthugyi 
or headmen of revenue circles, each comprising several 
villages, and the headman was remunerated by com- 
mission, fixed according to a sliding scale, on the amount 
of revenue collected within the circle. In the discharge 
of his revenue work and of various miscellaneous duties 
the Taikthugyi was assisted by the KyMangyi or 
village headman ("tax collector") and by rural police- 
men {YazawiU-Gaung^y each of whom was in charge of 
several villages. Under this system it was found that 
the village headman had gradually degenerated into 
something little better than a village drudge. To im- 
prove matters the Lower Burma Village Act was passed 
in 1889, with a view of bringing affairs more in a line 
with the village system which had been so successfully 



retained in Upper Burma as being most in accordance 
with the national customs and character of the Burmese. 
While the TaiktJmgyi are being gradually abolished 
and the office of YazawiU-Gaiing has been done away 
with, the position of the village headman has been re- 
habilitated by making him a collector of revenue, giving 
him power to decide petty civil and criminal cases, and 
securing for him the assistance of rural policemen subor- 
dinate to his authority. In Upper Burma the village 
headmen {Yivci TJmgyt) had always been associated with 
the collection of revenue. 

The judicial administration has only recently been 
improved by the formation of a High Court for Lower 
Burma. When Lord Lansdowne visited Burma in 1893, 
strong representations were made by the mercantile 
community and the Bar concerning the establishment of 
a High Court for Burma. It was, however, at that time 
decided that the matter was not one of the most urgent 
needs of the province. During Lord Elgin's tour in 
Burma, in November and December, 1898, the subject 
was once more considered, and with more favourable 
results. Proposals for a High Court could not be enter- 
tained, as this would have necessitated legislation by the 
English Parliament. But the establishment of a Chief 
Court for Burma, to consist of a chief judge and three 
puisne judges, two being barristers and the other two 
members of the Indian Civil Service, has been sanctioned 
by the Secretary of State from ist April, 1900. 

Previous to that the purely judicial officers of the 
province had been the Recorder of Rangoon, the two 
Judicial Commissioners for Lower Burma and for Upper 
Burma, the Additional Sessions Judges for the Pegu and 
the Irrawaddy divisions, the Judge of Moulmein, the 
Civil Judge of Mandalay town, and the Judges of the 
Court of Small Causes in Rangoon. The Recorder was 
a District and Sessions Judge in the town of Rangoon, 
and a High Court for all Burma with regard to criminal 
cases in which European British subjects were accused. 
He had original jurisdiction in all such civil cases in the 
town of Rangoon as were not within the powers of the 
Court of Small Causes. In civil and criminal matters 



the Judicial Commissioners exercised the powers of a 
High Court for appeal, reference, and revision of all 
cases except those for which the Recorder was the High 
Court. For the disposal of references transferred to it 
by either the Recorder or the Judicial Commissioner 
for the trial of such original cases and appeals as were 
transferred to it by the Local Government, and for the 
decision of appeals from decrees in civil cases passed by 
the Judge of Moulmein, a "Special Court" might be 
formed at Rangoon by the sitting together of the Re- 
corder and the Judicial Commissioner of Lower Burma,, 
with whom might also be associated the Judge of Moul- 
mein if the Local Government so directed in any par- 
ticular case. In practice this Special Court was found 
to be a poor substitute for the High Court required by 

Within the limits of his jurisdiction the Judge of 
Moulmein is a District and Sessions Judge, and has the 
powers of a Civil Court for the adjudication of any suit 
without restriction as to value. The Civil Judge of 
Mandalay has jurisdiction in all civil suits arising in 
Mandalay town, and in such as may be transferred to it 
from the district. He has also the powers of a Small 
Cause Court for the trial of suits up to 500 rupees 
(£33^) in value. The two judges of the Court of Small 
Causes in Rangoon dispose of cases up to the value of 
2,000 rupees {£133^), except as regards cases specially 
excepted from the cognizance of such courts. At 
Rangoon, and in some of the other large towns, there 
are benches of honorary magistrates exercising powers 
of various degrees. In the different military canton- 
ments there are cantonment magistrates. 

In Upper Burma the highest court is that of the 
Judicial Commissioner, who exercises both original and 
appellate jurisdiction. 

In the administration of the Shan States a successful 
experiment has been tried. Now, as under the King of 
Ava, the Shan uplands, extending over more than forty 
thousand square miles and with a population exceeding 
375,000, are divided into a large number of mutually 
independent States, each ruled by a Sdwbwa or Chief 



appointed by Government, and most likely to become an 
hereditary appointment whilst good management con- 
tinues in any given State. Each chief, though no longer 
a feudatory but a British subject, has the power of life 
and death, together with an almost unlimited authority 
in the internal management of his State, so long as this 
is not characterized by oppression, or cruel and barbarous 
practices. Two civil officers, called Superintendents, are 
posted at Taunggyi in the south, and Lashi6 in the 
north, to exercise a general control and supervision over 
the chiefs, their administration, and their relations with 
each other. There are five large States under the super- 
vision of the Superintendent, Northern Shan States, and 
thirty-nine under the Superintendent and Political Officer, 
Southern Shan States. Certain sources of revenue, such 
as teak timber and minerals, are reserved by Govern- 
ment, as in the time of the kingdom of Ava ; but the 
extraction of timber on liberal terms is permitted to the 
chiefs in whose States teak forests are to be found. The 
revenue or tribute payable by each State is fixed at a 
lump sum, being assessed roughly on the basis of the 
number of houses. The chief is responsible for payment 
of the tribute, which he can easily raise without resorting 
to illegitimate means. 

The total assessment is now about ^18,000, as com- 
pared with a demand of about ^30,000 under the 
Burmese Kings. But there is this difference, that, 
whereas in 1885 King Thibaw obtained the tribute only 
from a few of the States adjacent to the plains, the 
whole amount now comes into the treasury without any 
difficulty or leakage. 

Tribute is paid with commendable punctuality, and in 
many instances a portion of it is remitted in considera- 
tion of expenditure on works of public utility, such as 
road-making. A simple regulation secures attention to 
ordinary legal forms and procedure, and debars the 
infliction of excessive or cruel punishments. The law 
thus administered in these States is, subject to the exten- 
sion to them of specific enactments in force in the rest of 
Burma, merely the customary law of the State so far as 
it is in accordance with justice, equity, and good con- 



science, and is not opposed to the spirit of the law in 
force throughout the rest of British India. 

The administration of the chiefs is not the best 
possible; but it is at once cheap, effective, and better 
suited to the Shan people than any more elaborate 
system modelled after the districts in charge of British 
officers. There is very little crime of any serious^ de- 
scription. The principle of local responsibility is strictly 
enforced. When the offenders in a serious case are not 
detected, the State in which the crime is committed has 
to pay compensation. Communications are being rapidly 
improved, agriculture is flourishmg, new crops like wheat 
and potatoes have been successfully introduced, medical 
relief and vaccination are being extended, and provisions 
are being made for veterinary aid and the training of 
veterinary assistants in the cattle-producing tracts. 
Though they can hardly be regarded as altogether an 
El Dorado, the Shan States have shown remarkable 
improvement under British rule, and present a fair field 
for future development agriculturally. Internecine war- 
fare has ceased, agriculture is spreading normally at a 
quick rate, caravan traffic is increasing year by year, the 
population is growing quickly, and the Shan plateau is 
now traversed by a railway. The short record of the 
Shan States is one of peace, prosperity, and progress, 
which will continue to develop rapidly as communications 
are opened out by means of railways and roads. 

The administration of the Chin hills on the north- 
western frontier has been since 1892 in charge of a 
political officer at Faldm. After the disarmament, com- 
pleted in 1896, of the numerous and powerful hill tribes 
inhabiting these mountain tracts, the conduct of the tribes- 
men remained for some time satisfactory, and a partial 
re-issue was made of the guns called in, marked guns 
being given to licensees on a scale of about one gun for 
every ten houses for purposes of defence. Serious crimes 
were now for some time of seldom occurrence, raiding 
was suppressed along the whole of the frontier, and there 
was little or no political disturbance within the hills 
themselves. During 1897 and 1898, however, arms were 
successfully smuggled in, and disarmament had again 




to be carried out, about 2,000 guns being seized by the 
end of May, 1899. A serious rising taking place in con- 
sequence of this, the garrison in the hills had to be re- 
inforced ; yet on the whole the condition of the Chin 
hills is as satisfactory as frontier districts usually are. 
Statistics of trade with the valley of the Chindwin are 
wanting ; but the traffic is believed to be increasing con- 
siderably, while the Chins have begun to show readiness 
in providing labour for transport and public works. The 
tribute amounts only to a nominal sum of about ;;^ 1,200, 
which is easily levied. The Chin hills have been de- 
clared to be a part of Burma ; but they constitute a 
scheduled district, for the administration of which a 
Regulation was passed in 1896. The Political Officer 
and his Assistant are invested with powers to enable 
them to keep the peace and to exercise supervision over 
the chiefs, who are allowed to administer their affairs so 
far as may be in accordance with their own tribal customs. 
Since 1897 the Chin hills have been garrisoned en- 
tirely by military police. 

The Military Garrison of the province had been reduced 
to 10,727 men in 1898, of whom 4,234 were Europeans, 
and 6,493 natives. It was increased again to 12,309, of 
whom 4,656 were Europeans and 7,653 natives, during 
the following year, but has fallen again to 10,324 in 
April, 1900(2,81 1 Europeans and 7,513 natives). Of the 
latter, seven battalions are Burma regiments raised for 
permanent service in Burma by transformation from 
military police. These regiments, consisting of Gurkhas, 
Sikhs, and Pathans, are distributed throughout the Shan 
States and the northern part of Burma. 

The Burma district command forming a first-class dis- 
trict, is held by a Major-General directly subordinate to 
the Lieut.-General commanding the Madras forces. It is 
divided into two second-class districts held by Brigadiers- 
General at Rangoon and Mandalay, while the native regi- 
ment at Kengtung and the detachment at Fort Stedman 
in the Southern Shan States are under the separate com- 
mand of a Colonel on the Staff. The total cost of the 
garrison during 1897- 1898 amounted to a little in excess 
of ;^ 60,000, which may fairly be taken as about the normal 



cost of the regular troops maintained within the pro- 
vince, now that everything is tranquil. In addition 
to these regular troops there are close upon 2,500 
efficient volunteers in the various towns and on the rail- 
way lines, who form a valuable addition to the military 

The Police Department had a force of 13,545 civil 
police and 15,667 military police in 1898, costing up- 
wards of ;^530,ooo a year. It is administered by an 
Inspector- General of Police, assisted by Deputy Inspec- 
tors-General for Civil Police, Military Police, and Police 
Supply and Clothing. For the control and management of 
the executive duties of the civil police there is a District 
Superintendent of Police for each of the thirty-six dis- 
tricts of Burma, while fifty-nine Assistant Superinten- 
dents are in charge of the more important subdivisions. 
The special duties of the military police are controlled 
by twelve Battalion Commandants and twenty-seven 
Assistant Commandants, whose services are lent, for 
periods of five and two years respectively, from the 
Indian Staff Corps for this specific purpose. The Dis- 
trict Superintendents of Police have certain magisterial 
powers, but in all essential respects they are directly sub- 
ordinate to the Deputy Commissioner as District Magis- 
trate. Apart from political uniforms worn by members 
of the Government, political officers, and certain ad- 
ministrative officers having political duties, the police is 
the only civil department in Burma whose officers are 
required to wear a uniform. 

The military police is in reality a regular military 
force with only two European officers in command of 
each battalion ; and it is recruited entirely from among 
the warlike races of northern India, with the exception 
of a small battalion of between six and seven hundred 
men raised by enlistment from among the Karens 
inhabiting the forest-clad hills throughout the central 
portion of Lower Burma. None of the other hill tribes 
seem to be suited for enlistment, while both the work 
and the discipline of this special branch of the Police 
Department are unsuitable for the Burmese. At Mo- 
gok, in the Ruby Mines district, Panthay or Yunnanese 



Mohammedan recruits were enlisted, but proved so 
unpromising that they had to be disbanded. A similar 
experiment now being made with the Kachin hillmen 
may perhaps turn out more successful. 

So averse is the Burmese character to discipline and 
control in petty matters that it is impossible to get really 
suitable men to enlist even in the civil police. About 
twenty per cent, of the whole force is illiterate. Training 
schools have been established in nearly every district, 
where recruits are grounded in their future work before 
being drafted into the police force. A feature of the 
civil police administration is the maintenance of a beat 
patrol system, one of the principal advantages of which 
is that it enables the police to keep in touch with the 
village headmen in rural tracts, and with the headmen of 
wards and elders of blocks in towns, thus enabling in- 
formation and assistance to be given by these at a mini- 
mum of inconvenience. 

The number of crimes of violence in 1897 consisted 
only of 540, which seems a remarkably low total for a 
population then probably numbering nearly ten millions. 
Of these no less than seventy occurred in one district, 
Tharrawaddy, which has ever been turbulent and inclined 
to lawlessness. Cattle theft is common (3,442 cases occur- 
ring in 1899), though the beat patrol system helps to keep 
it in check. 

Persons suspected of bad livelihood can be called upon 
to show cause why they should not be made to furnish 
security for good behaviour. Of 4,574 such cases 
brought before magistrates in 1897, 3,660 were actually 
called upon to furnish security. The provisions of the 
enactments under which villages can be fined, or have 
punitive police quartered on them at their own special 
cost, for harbouring criminals or neglecting to take due 
measures for their arrest, are now freely used in Lower 
Burma, with the result that much is now done by vil- 
lage headmen and villages to assist the police and pre- 
vent anything like the organization of crime. In the 
matter of ensuring the recognition of offenders previously 
convicted the Bertillon system of anthropometry was 
formerly in use, but has now given place to the method 



of identification by finger-prints, the police being charged 
with the duty of thus identifying criminals. 

The control of the Jail Department is vested in an 
Inspector- General, who at the same time performs the 
duties of Sanitary Commissioner, Superintendent of Vac- 
cination, and Head of the Civil Medical Department. 
The two central jails in and near Rangoon are in charge 
of special medical officers as Superintendents ; but in all 
other cases the Civil Surgeon at the headquarters of any 
district is ex-officio Superintendent of the jail there. 
Thus all the jails throughout Burma are in charge of 
officers of the Indian Medical Service, except at small 
stations where the post of Civil Surgeon and Superin- 
tendent of Jail happens to be held by a member of the 
subordinate medical service. 

In Upper Burma there were no regular jails till 1887, 
when one was opened at Mandalay. At other district 
headquarters a mere lock-up was provided for the ac- 
commodation of prisoners, and large numbers of escapes 
were made from these insecure and inadequate buildings. 
A scheme was afterwards drawn up for the construction 
of a central jail holding 1,000 prisoners at Fort Dufferin 
(Mandalay city) and at Myingyan, with smaller jails at 
other district headquarters. At that time, too, the jails 
in Lower Burma became overcrowded and liable to 
dangers of epidemics. After the wave of crime rose, in 
1885, the central jail in Rangoon became chronically 
overcrowded with nearly 4,000 prisoners, many of whom 
were men of desperate character. The pressure on 
sanctioned accommodation was partially removed in 1891 
by the release of over 1,500 men, some on security, and 
some unconditionally, who had been convicted during 
the disturbed times, and it became further obviated by 
the opening in 1892 of a jail to hold 2,000 prisoners at 
Insein, a few miles to the north of Rangoon. There is 
total jail accommodation throughout the province for 
over 15,000 prisoners distributed over seven central and 
twenty-five district jails, and the average daily number 
in prison throughout 1899 was 12,547 (of whom 12,416 
were males, and only 1 3 1 females), but the accommoda- 
tion, still somewhat insufficient, is being enlarged. To 



prevent overcrowding special batches of long-term con- 
victs are from time to time sent from Rangoon to the 
penal settlement on the Andaman Islands, while, since 
1895, the normal annual number of prisoners transported 
to the Andamans has been raised from 75 to 200. 
Close upon 18,000 convicts were committed to prison 
during 1897. This represents the enormous proportion 
of about one convict to every 550 of the total population. 
Of these 18,000 commitments close upon one-sixth were 
prisoners charged with bad livelihood, nearly 3,000 of 
whom were imprisoned for failure to give security for 
good behaviour. In committing these prisoners to jail the 
courts classified altogether 3,227 as "habitual criminals," 
either because they were convicted of offences punish- 
able with three years' imprisonment after having been 
previously convicted of an offence similarly punishable, 
or else because they were believed either to depend on 
crime as a means of livelihood or to have attained pe- 
culiar skill in crime. Out of 20,000 prisoners committed 
to jail in 1896, over one-eighth of the total number 
committed to prison confessed to the habit of consuming 
opium, and more than nine-tenths of these were found in 
the prisons of Lower Burma. In 1899, 16,917 convicts 
were sent to jail. Of these, 3,459 were habitual offenders, 
and all but twenty-seven of them were identified before 

Serious outbreaks in any of the jails are of compara- 
tively rare occurrence, as the discipline maintained is 
distinctly good. Among the minor punishments inflicted 
for breaches of discipline are the treadmill, shot drill, 
and the loss of good marks leading to curtailment of the 
time to be served. Whipping was formerly frequently 
inflicted, but is now had recourse to only in compara- 
tively rare cases, when exemplary punishment is really 
necessary. One of the most effective punishments 
for maintaining discipline is solitary confinement with 
reduced diet. For juvenile offenders a reformatory is 
attached to the central jail at Insein. 

As the sanitary arrangements of the jails are infinitely 
better than prisoners have previously been accustomed 
to, the health of the jail population is usually good, 



although the larger jails from time to time become 
infested by the obscure forms of fever and other kinds 
of disease peculiarly liable to break out where large 
numbers of men are confined together in a small space. 
The daily average number of sick is usually about forty 
per thousand of the average strength, and the death rate 
is ordinarily only about eighteen per thousand. In 1896 
the death rate was below that (i 7-93) and sixty per cent, of 
the prisoners gained in weight during their incarceration ; 
but in 1897 it increased to twenty-four per thousand, in 
consequence of cholera breaking out in three jails at towns 
having defective water supply. It was 1873 in 1899. 

The gross expenditure on jails amounted in 1899 to 
;^5 2, 506, which was reduced to the extent of ^22,200 
by the gross cash earnings from work done by the 
convicts. This reduced the cost per head from a gross 
charge of £4. 35'. per annum to a net amount of ;C2 8j., 
while it does not take into consideration prisoners' labour 
employed upon jail extensions and gardens. A garden 
is attached to each jail for providing anti-scorbutic vege- 
tables to the ordinary prison diet of curry and rice. The 
jails are employed to the fullest possible extent in meet- 
ing the wants of Government departments in furniture, 
clothing, food, and other articles ; and the problem of 
finding useful and remunerative employment for the ab- 
normally large percentage of criminals is continually 
under consideration. 

The Public Works Department is under the control 
of a Chief Engineer, who is ex-officio Secretary to the 
Lieutenant-Governor in that department. The admin- 
istration is carried out by five Superintending Engineers 
in charge of circles, four of whom have charge of general 
works such as roads, buildings, and canals, while one is 
specially charged with the irrigation works and surveys 
throughout the central dry zone of Upper Burma. 
Within these five circles the works are in charge of 
twenty- three Executive Engineers holding divisions, 
assisted by Assistant Engineers as subdivisional officers. 
Appointments to the Public Works Department are 
mainly made from the Indian Engineering College at 
Cooper's Hill, in Surrey, though young officers from the 



Royal Engineers and the pick of the students at the 
Thomason Engineering College at Rurki, N.W. P., also 
receive a small number of nominations. The subordi- 
nate service, consisting of Sub-Assistant Engineers and 
Overseers is recruited mainly from the army and from 
the lower grade engineering schools of India. 

So far as possible the circles of the four Superintend- 
ing Engineers charged with general works are conter- 
minous with the eight civil divisions held by Commis- 
sioners, but they also include the Shan States and the Chin 
hills. In like manner the divisions in charge of Execu- 
tive Engineers are conterminous with the one or more 
civil districts held by the Deputy Commissioners to 
whom they are in certain matters directly subordinate. 
Since 1894 all military works except the special defences 
of Rangoon have been transferred from the Madras 
Military Works to the Local Government. 

When the various portions of the province came under 
British administration the only means of communication 
were the tidal creeks of the delta, the rivers and their 
tributaries, rough jungle paths, and the temporary cart- 
tracks across the fields when once the crops had been 
reaped and harvested. Anything like good roads did 
not exist. Perhaps the nearest approach to highways 
was the ancient Minlan or " royal road " cleared 
through the jungle following the two belts of laterite 
running north and south along both sides of the Pegu 
Yoma, which forms the watershed between the Irra- 
waddy and the Sittang rivers. Crossed by scores of large 
streams and smaller watercourses, it could only be used 
during the dry season ; and its reputation was so bad 
that part of it running through the Tharrawaddy district 
was known as the Tkakolan or " thieves' road." Even 
down to 1877, after Pegu had been in British possession 
for a quarter of a century, there were exceedingly few 
roads ; and none of these were complete with bridges 
and metal. The only important trunk-road bridged 
throughout, though not metalled, was one running north 
and west from Rangoon to Prome, and thence on to the 
military frontier station at Thayetmyo. Another, going 
north-east to Pegu and then turning northwards to 



Toungoo, the frontier fort on the Sittang side, was un- 
bridged at all the larger streams, and was therefore 
only a fair-weather track. The old military road from 
Toungoo to Moulmein, the extension of the trunk road 
from Chittagong to Akyab, and that across the Arakan 
hills from Taunggup to Prome, had been allowed to fall 
into such disrepair that they could hardly any longer be 
called roads. 

The first real impetus towards the construction and 
the proper maintenance of fairly good metalled roads 
was felt about the time of the opening of the Irrawaddy 
Valley Railway line from Rangoon to Prome in 1877. 
The necessity for feeder-roads became then, of course, 
at once apparent. The growing wealth of the agri- 
cultural population and the rapid extension of perma- 
nent rice cultivation throughout all the central portion 
of Lower Burma necessitated the construction of roads 
to enable the surplus grain of land-locked areas to be 
brought within easy reach of the rice mills at Rangoon, 
Moulmein, and Bassein. The impulse thus given to 
road construction has never been relaxed. After the 
annexation of Upper Burma the funds for road-making 
were granted much more freely by the Government of 
India than previously, with the result that of the 6,220 
miles of road maintained by the Public Works Depart- 
ment in 1900 more than one-half are in the northern 
portion of the province. 

While the internal requirements of the country are 
satisfied as fully as funds permit, the Government of 
Burma are anything but unmindful of the desirability 
of improving existing trade routes and opening up new 
tracks for the facilitation of traffic and commerce with 
the countries beyond the frontiers of Burma. More 
especially with regard to trade routes leading eastwards 
into Siam and Yunnan the Government of Burma are 
doing as much as is possible, under the financial limita- 
tions imposed upon them by the Government of India, 
in the way of constructing roads and caravan tracks 
without neglecting the more immediate and pressing 
requirements of the internal portions of the province. 
From Myitkyina to Sadon, and from Bhamo up the 



Taiping valley to Loikaw, roads run to the frontier, 
whence the tracks converge on Momein. Namkhan, the 
frontier mart on the Shweli river, has now good road 
connection direct with Bhamo. From Myitson, lower 
down the Shweli but separated from Namkhan by a 
long and unnavigable stretch of rocky obstructions, a 
fair cart-track leads to Mong Mit, and from Mong Mit a 
good mule-track ascends to Mogok, the headquarters of 
the Ruby Mines, whence a good cart-road descends west- 
wards to Thabeitkyin on the Irrawaddy river, while an- 
other mule-track trends southwards through Mainglon 
to Maymyo and Pyaunggaung on the Mandalay-K union 
railway line. Running parallel to this line of railway a 
good fair-weather road, complete as to bridges or ferries 
as far as Lashi6, a distance of 1 78 miles, leads from 
Mandalay across the Northern Shan States towards the 
Kunlon ferry on the Salween river ; and from this trunk 
road feeders extend north and south into the Shan 
country. From Thazi on the Rangoon- Mandalay rail- 
way line a cart-road leads eastwards to Fort Stedman 
and to Taunggyi, the headquarters of the Southern Shan 
States, and for seventy miles beyond that to Napok, 
thus bringing the whole of the Southern Shan States in 
the neighbourhood of Mong Nai (Mon^) in direct com- 
munication with the railway line. And when Mong Nai, 
in the course of a few years, becomes linked up with the 
Mandalay- Kunlon line by a branch railway from Thi- 
baw, this improvement in communications is certain to 
be immediately followed by a considerable increase in 
the prosperity of the States, marked as the progress of 
these has already been since the Shan country came under 
British rule. From Napok a good mule-track, which is 
gradually being improved into a fair-weather road, 
extends eastwards across the Kengkham ferry on the 
Salween to Kengtung, where a Burma regiment forms the 
garrison near the Chinese, Siamese, and French frontiers. 
Some of these roads have proved enormously expen- 
sive. Thus the Ruby Mines cart-road from Thabeitkyin 
to Mogok, 61 J miles in length, had cost considerably 
over ;^6o,ooo for construction and maintenance by the 
end of March, 1894. The metalling of this road is now 

241 R 


in course of completion, and when that is done the total 
cost of this difficult hill road will be close on ;^8o,ooo. 

The actual outlay on communications, exclusive of 
supervision and tools, in 1899-1900 was £i73>350' 
of which about two-fifths were for original works and 
three-fifths for maintenance. 

The railways in Burma were originally constructed by 
a special (Imperial) branch of the Public Works Depart- 
ment; but they have, since ist September, 1896, been 
transferred to the Burma Railways Company, though the 
workino- of the open line was carried on by Government 
on behalf of the Company till February, 1 897. The total 
capital expenditure on construction up to 31st March, 
1898, amounted to ^5,9 15,340, of which ^5,127,860 had 
been incurred by Government before the Company took 
over the railways in 1896. The total length of line open 
to traffic on 31st March, 1900, was 993 miles. Further 
consideration need not, however, here be given to rail- 
ways in Burma, as they form a subject specially dealt 
with in chapter xvi. 

Among the principal of the earlier Public Works was 
the construction of the seven lighthouses erected for 
the protection of shipping along the dangerous sea-coast. 
One of these unfortunately had an insecure foundation 
on the Krishna shoal off the middle of the delta, and 
consequently disappeared one night in August, 1877. 
Another of the greatest of the Public Works was the 
embankment of the extreme north-western portion of the 
Irrawaddy delta by a bund running along the west bank 
of the main river and along the east bank of its offshoot 
the Ngawun river, which, after flowing past Bassein, 
enters the sea near Cape Negrais. It formed an A- 
shaped embankment running with a cross connection for 
about sixty to seventy miles along each bank of the apex 
of the delta on the western side of the Irrawaddy, and 
was designed to protect the land in the upper portion 
from disastrous floods occurring annually in July and 
August. The embankment was completed in 1878 at a 
total cost of nearly ;^2 70,000; but the results realized 
have hardly been as good as were anticipated. When 
the settlement of the land revenue was made in the 



Bassein and Henzada districts, in 1884, it was found 
that while eighteen square miles of cultivated land were 
protected by the embankment nearly 130 were not pro- 
tected, and of this area about fifteen square miles (9,500 
acres) had been thrown out of cultivation in consequence 
of the operation of the embankment. 

While the rice lands situated in the delta and along 
the sea- board from Cape Negrais to the Gulf of Mar- 
tabun are thus liable to inundations capable of some- 
times seriously affecting the crops, the whole of the cen- 
tral portion of Upper Burma is exposed to considerable 
danger from drought, unless a sufficiency of soil-moisture 
be provided by irrigation. 

The central portion of Upper Burma naturally forms 
a dry zone comprising the whole of the districts of 
Myingyan and Meiktila, together with portions of 
Yamethin, Magwe, Minbii, and Pakkoku on the south, 
and of Lower Chindwin, Sagaing, Shwebo, Mandalay, 
and Kyaukse on the north. The moisture-laden winds 
coming from the Bay of Bengal during the summer 
months, when the south-west monsoon prevails, deposit 
the great bulk of their moisture either on the Arakan 
hills between the Irrawaddy and the Bay of Bengal, or 
on the Pegu Yoma between the Lower Irrawaddy and 
the Sittang River, while copious rainfall is at the same 
time provided by them for the lower portions of the 
valleys of these two rivers. As these comparatively 
cool winds, saturated with moisture, travel northwards 
in the direction of the dry central zone their tempera- 
ture becomes gradually raised ; consequently their rela- 
tive humidity decreases and precipitations of rain are 
less frequent and less abundant. Thus, from a rainfall 
of between 200 and 250 inches on the coasts of Arakan 
and Tenasserim, and of about 100 inches in Rangoon, 
the precipitations in areas lying to the north gradually 
become less till the dry central zone is reached, within 
the different portions of which the average annual rain- 
fall varies from about fifteen to thirty inches. North 
of this again, throughout the hilly and densely wooded 
districts of the Upper Chindwin, Katha, Ruby Mines, 
Bhamo, and Myitkyina, the temperature is also lower 



than what prevails in the dry zone ; consequently the re- 
* lative humidity of the air increases once more, and the 
result is frequent copious rainfall varying up to over 
ninety inches. During the winter monsoon season, 
when the winds set from the north-east, the rainfall 
throughout Burma is not much affected, the inconsider- 
able amount of rainfall due to this particular cause being 
mainly confined to the thickly-wooded northern districts 
of Myitkyina, Bhamo, and the Ruby Mines. 

The essential climatic features of this central zone are 
therefore a high summer temperature, with strong, dry 
winds prevailing from April till October, which but 
infrequently bring up rain-storms. The only possible 
means of contending against these natural disadvantages 
of geographical position throughout the great central 
portion of the Irrawaddy valley would obviously have 
been to preserve large tracts under forest, in order to 
act as huge natural reservoirs for the storage of soil- 
moisture and to increase the relative humidity of the 
air for the benefit of agriculture. These scientific pre- 
cautions were naturally enough neglected in Burmese 
times. Instead of being preserved, the once existing 
forests throughout the dry zone have been destroyed, 
and the result is that, to climatic features already un- 
favourable for agriculture, there have been added the 
physical drawbacks that the soil, unprotected by forest 
growth, gets washed away during heavy rainfall, and 
that the rain-water is not retained within the soil for the 
feeding of streams and the effecting of other results 
beneficial to agriculture. Hence only irrigated portions 
of the dry zone can be relied on to yield crops with 
certainty year by year ; and rice cultivation within it is 
confined to tracts obtaining a good supply of water by 
means of irrigation. Apart from such more favoured 
portions the food crops grown by the peasantry con- 
sist chiefly of maize, millet, and peas, whilst cotton and 
sessamum are also raised for sale. 

As a net result of these climatic disadvantages and of 
wasted physical features, years of scarcity are of fre- 
quent occurrence in this dry zone. Seldom does any 
year pass without complaints of want in some part of 



it. In several of the years since the annexation the 
scarcity has been so great and widespread as almost to 
verge on famine, and to necessitate the commencement 
of irrigation works, road-making, and railway earthwork 
as famine relief measures. Actual famine, however, is 
hardly now possible, even in the driest parts of Burma, 
though the memory of the Thaydwgyi or " great scar- 
city" which occurred in 1792, during the reign of Bodaw 
Paya, still lives in tradition. 

In olden times many irrigation schemes had been 
hatched, and some of them were even undertaken ; but 
when the kingdom of Ava was annexed, most of these 
works had long since been allowed to fall into disre- 
pair, and the people were left to their own devices as 
regards the storage of water for agricultural and other 
requirements. The chief irrigation systems were in 
the Kyaukse district and the Salin subdivision of 
Minbu. These works were some hundreds of years 
old, but it was hoped that much could be done in the 
way of improving them by draining the hollows be- 
tween the canals, strengthening the weirs and main 
canals, and reducing their number, improving the open- 
ings for distributing water so as to prevent wastage, 
making the larger canals more conveniently navigable, 
and bringing a much larger area under irrigation. 

As soon as the state of Upper Burma permitted it, 
an officer of the Public Works Department was, in 
1890, deputed to examine and report on the existing 
irrigation works and their condition. As 1891 and 1892 
were years of great scarcity a large number of old Bur- 
mese irrigation projects were taken up and put in order 
to provide work for the distressed agriculturists, and in 
the Meiktila and Yamethin districts a fair amount of 
work was done in the way of making tanks and weirs. 
In 1892 an irrigation circle was formed, and extensive 
works were commenced in the Mandalay and Shwebo 
districts, the irrigation canals of the Kyaukse district 
being already well supplied with water from the hills 
immediately to the east. These were followed by other 
large works in the Myingyan and Minbii districts, and 
by improvements in the existing works in Kyaukse, 



Meiktila, and Yamethin. The Nyaungyan Minhla tank 
in the Meiktila district has been restored at a cost of 
^30,000, and the Kyaukse tank in the Yamethin dis- 
trict has been formed at an outlay of over ;^33,ooo ; while 
large sums were spent on railway earthwork from Meik- 
tila to Myingyan in 1897 as a special famine relief work. 
This has now been open to regular railway traffic since 
November, 1899. 

In other districts, where irrigation can take place by 
means of canals fed from large streams, more costly 
operations have been undertaken on major works. These 
include a project for irrigating 72,000 acres in the Man- 
dalay district at a cost of over ;^ 200,000 ; another in the 
Shwebo district to cost more than ;^ 3 3 0,000, and irrigate 
130,000 acres, together with other works in the Minbu, 
Mandalay, and Shwebo districts for the irrigation of 
other 100,000 acres. These last works are estimated 
to cost over ^310,000, of which nearly ^^ 180,000 have 
been expended between 1896 and 1900. When all these 
schemes have been carried out, about 420,000 acres or 
close upon 670 square miles of land will by irrigation be 
capable of sustaining permanent cultivation irrespective 
of the rainfall upon the tracts producing the crops. 

The total outlay on the various public works through- 
out Burma during the last five years has averaged more 
than ^600,000 ; and the new territory of Upper Burma 
has very properly had by far the lion's share of this ex- 
penditure. It amounted to ;/^623,485 during 1899-1900, 
exclusive of ;^i 17,648 for payment of salaries, etc., of 
Public Works officers. 

The Forest Department, administering the enormous 
natural wealth represented by the forests of Burma, is 
controlled by four Conservators of Forests, two in Lower 
and two in Upper Burma, whose circles are conterminous 
with the civil divisions held by Commissioners, while the 
Shan States are also included within the southern circle 
of Upper Burma. The controlling staff consists of 
thirty-six Deputy Conservators of Forests, whose divi- 
sions are, so far as possible, conterminous with one or 
more civil districts. There are also fourteen Assistant 
Conservators of Forests, most of whom are drafted into 



divisional charges, — consequent on the inadequacy of the 
sanctioned staff to cope satisfactorily with the constantly 
expanding work of the department, — as soon as they have 
qualified for this by passing the prescribed examinations 
in the Burmese language, forest law and procedure, 
and land revenue. These officers form the Imperial 
branch of the Indian Forest Service, to which appoint- 
ments are now made only after a three years' course 
of study at the Indian Engineering College, Cooper's 
Hill, Surrey, including a few months' instruction on the 
Continent. The provincial branch, or Burma Forest 
Service, consists of nine extra Deputy Conservators 
holding minor divisional charges, and twenty-two extra 
Assistant Conservators for subdivisional work. They 
are appointed by selection from among the senior 
Forest Rangers, most of whom now receive their first 
appointments after undergoing a two years' course of 
training in the Forest School at Dehra Dim, N.W.P. 
The Subordinate Forest Staff consists of 687 Forest 
Rangers, Deputy Rangers, Foresters, and Forest Guards 
on salaries ranging from twelve to one hundred and fifty 
rupees per mensem. Appointments are almost entirely 
confined to natives of Burma. A Vernacular Forest 
School was opened during 1899 for the purpose of giving 
selected junior members of the Subordinate Staff elemen- 
tary instruction in forestry and in departmental work as 
it is done in beats and ranges. 

The Conservators of Forests are responsible for, and 
have complete control over, all professional, depart- 
mental, and financial matters throughout their circles, 
while the Deputy Commissioner is responsible for the 
general management and protection of all the forests 
in his district. For this purpose the divisional forest 
officer is the Deputy Commissioner's assistant in all forest 

As compared with other branches of the Adminis- 
tration, the Forest Department in Burma labours under 
the great disadvantage of having no real head responsible 
for controlling the whole of the provincial forest affairs and 
for submitting matters direct to the Lieutenant-Governor 
for orders. Each of the four Conservators is an inde- 



pendent head of department in matters affecting his 
own circle ; and he is directly responsible to the Local 
Government, with which he communicates through the 
Revenue Secretary. For all matters concerned with 
questions of general administrative policy, forest settle- 
ments, contracts, finance, and matters of routine, the 
Revenue Secretary exercises an effective control over 
the four Conservators ; but he is no more qualified to 
criticise or to advise the Lieutenant-Governor on purely 
professional matters connected with scientific forestry 
and technical questions than he would be to scrutinise 
and report on engineering projects submitted by the heads 
of circles in the Public Works Department. It conse- 
quently often occurs that, when important suggestions 
are made by any one Conservator, the opinions of the 
other three are taken ; and if it should happen that two 
are for and two against the proposals, the matter is 
shelved indefinitely. 

In other respects efficient and economical, the Forest 
Department will never be on a really sound footing 
until, like the Public Works Department, it has a Chief 
Conservator of Forests controlling the administration of 
the four Conservators and ex-officio Secretary to Govern- 
ment for the disposal of forest business. A department 
whose gross earnings in Burma for 1 898-1 899 were 
^556,726, and showed a net surplus revenue of ;^399,256, 
can surely well afford the creation of such a controlling 
administrative appointment ; and to refrain from creating 
it now is, for various important financial and technical 
reasons, not an economy. 

The work of the Forest Department throughout India 
has been much abused on the one hand, and much belauded 
on the other. There can be no doubt that the work of 
forest conservancy, so essentially important for Indian 
agriculture, has usually to be carried out under conditions 
imposing unwelcome restrictions on the wasteful and 
irrational customs which formerly prevailed. In Burma, 
however, the opposition to the work of the Forest 
Department has been considerably less than throughout 
most of the other parts of India. District officers have 
on the whole, and more especially since the commence- 



ment of Sir Charles Bernard's administration as Chief 
Commissioner of British Burma in 1879, been favour- 
able to proposals for the formation of reserved forests 
selected either for financial or for other economic reasons. 
Men who formerly scoffed at the departmental efforts 
made for the formation of forest reserves, after seeing 
the swiftness with which total clearance of forest growth 
can be accomplished and the evils following as its result, 
have, personally, recently urged that the last remnants of 
the forests in the lower delta should be preserved for 
timber and fuel production. Moreover, Burma is at once 
the most thickly forested and the most thinly populated 
province in India ; and the work of selecting, settling, 
and demarcating the forest areas set apart as permanent 
reserves could, without any undue pressure on the people, 
be carried out much more freely in the thinly populated 
jungle tracts than would have been possible in any other 
province of India. 

The careful manner in which existing rights of the 
people, even of nomadic cultivators practising the waste- 
ful system of Taungya or shifting hill-cultivation, are 
safeguarded in dealing with such proposals for forest 
reservation will be found described in chapter xvii. 
treating of Burma's forest wealth. 

The reserves already sanctioned up to the end of 
1 899-1 900, aggregated 17,153 square miles, or just over 
ten per cent, of the total area ; but the process of selecting 
reserves will continue for many years yet, especially in 
Upper Burma. Only in the Hanthawaddy, Pegu, and 
Tharawaddy districts of Lower Burma has this important 
work been completed, where about two-thirds of the 
existing forest-land still at the disposal of Government 
have been reserved. Outside these reserves enormous 
tracts of tree-forest and jungle still remain for clearance 
and cultivation, reservation being for the most part 
confined to forest land unsuitable for permanent self- 
sustaining cultivation. 

Even in the Shan States attention is now also being 
given to this matter. The Sawbwa of Thibaw, acting on 
my advice in 1898, requested the Local Government to 
depute a forest officer to begin the work in his State, first 



of all by the examination and reservation of the best 
teak-producing tracts, and then by the selection of other 
wooded areas to be reserved for reasons more particularly 
connected with the absorption and retention of soil- 
moisture for the benefit of agriculture and pasturage. As 
the early result of this prudent policy, the Kainggyi 
Forest Reserve in Thibaw, the first created in the 
Northern Shan States, was constituted during the official 
year i 899-1 900. 

Notwithstanding"a departmental reorganization in 1896, 
the progress of forest operations is much hampered by 
the paucity of officers of all ranks. Classified as a 
" ^^/^^/-commercial department," the Forest Department 
is worked mainly on financial principles ; and the increase 
in the number of administrative, controlling, and executive 
officers is not taking place pari passu with the rapid 
expansion of departmental operations and of the hand- 
some revenue resulting therefrom. Several new divisions, 
which it would be advantageous to create, cannot be formed 
for want of officers, and all three branches of the forest 
service will soon have to be increased unless the capital 
value of the enormous forest wealth contained in the 
province is to remain partially unutilized or to run the 
risk of suffering permanent damage by neglect of the 
economic possibilities otherwise attainable. Even as- 
suming, though it is nothing like the reality, that the 
whole of the revenue-producing teak and other forest pro- 
duce were harvested solely from the reserved areas, this 
would merely indicate an average annual rate of growth 
far less than should be obtained under intensive treat- 
ment with adequate supervision. The ^399,256 of net 
surplus revenue earned in 1898-99 certainly do not 
represent more than i to i J per cent, of the capital value 
of the forests, which may consequently be roughly esti- 
mated at from ^30,000,000 to ^40,000,000 ; and if a 
fair proportionate share of the net earnings were to be 
granted annually for the important works of fire protection 
of reserved forests, for improvement fellings for the benefit 
of teak and other valuable trees, and for cultural operations 
m connection with their growth and development, there 
would be every probability of both the annual returns 



and the capital value of the forests increasing consider- 
ably in course of time. A property of this sort having 
a present actual marketable capital value of at least 
;^30,ooo,ooo to ^40,000,000 sterling seems worth de- 
veloping and improving to a greater extent than has 
hitherto been the case. 

The Ports and Customs, under the Financial Com- 
missioner as Chief Customs authority, are administered 
by a Chief Collector of Customs at Rangoon, assisted by 
an Assistant Collector and Superintendent of Preventive 
Service, and by Collectors at the ports of Moulmein, 
Bassein, and Akyab. At Rangoon, through which eighty 
per cent, of the total trade of the whole province passes, 
there are a Port Officer and an Assistant Port Officer ; 
but at the other ports the Collector of Customs is also 
Port Officer. The total value of the sea-borne trade of 
Burma amounted to ;^20,8 19,992 in 1899- 1900, of which 
about two-fifths were imports and three-fifths exports. Of 
the exports over ^4,000,000 worth are annually shipped 
to Europe, the principal articles being rice, teak timber, 
cutch, and hides. Internal trade between Burma and 
Siam, Karenni, the Shan States, and Western China 
amounted to ^2,047,314 in 1 899-1 900. Altogether, the 
trade of the province (see chapter xiv.) is in a healthy, 
expansive condition, and is bound to develop normally 
with the extension and ramification of the railway net 
and the increase of population and of cultivation. 

The Education Department is under a Director of 
Public Instruction, while the work of school inspection is 
carried out by four Inspectors, assisted by numerous 
Deputy Inspectors and Sub- Inspectors. Formerly edu- 
cation was almost entirely in the hands of the Pongyi or 
"religious" at the monasteries. Lay schools existed 
here and there, kept by old men leading a semi- recluse 
life ; but these were few and far between. Every male 
Burmese has, in order to acquire the religious qualification 
distinguishing him as human and not a mere brute, to wear 
the yellow robe of a recluse during some portion of his 
youth ; and before he can enter a monastery as a Maung 
Shin, or acolyte, he has previously to receive instruction. 
As this has always been the case from time immemorial, 



the monasteries became the national schools of the 
country, where elementary education was given gratis by 
the monks (or religious recluses, to speak correctly), who 
thereby added to their Kutho or " religious merit," the 
attainment of which was their object in leading the 
humble mendicant life of a " religious." But it was not the 
custom of the country for girls to receive any education 
of this sort. As no woman can ascend the path leading 
towards Neikban (Nirvana) till her soul has become 
incorporated in the body of a man, it would have been 
premature and altogether unnecessary to inflict upon her, 
or endow her with, even elementary education. That 
would all come naturally in due time when once such an 
amount of merit had been attained by her good works as 
would enable her to revisit this world in the shape of a 

When a small boy enters the Kyaung or monastery 
at about seven or eight years of age, he is given a 
papier-mache slate [Parabdik), or a blackened wooden 
board ( Thinbori) shaped like the pointer of a roadway sign- 
post, and a pencil roughly cut from steatite or soap-stone. 
These Thinbon are usually made of the light white wood 
of the Yaman6 tree (Gmelina arbored). On his board 
he is taught to write the vowels and the consonants of 
the alphabet, and is made to repeat them aloud so as 
to imprint them on his memory. Each day the boards 
are blackwashed with finely powdered moistened char- 
coal, and a fresh lesson is set. Having mastered these 
foundations, advances are gradually made to simple 
combinations of letters, and then to more complicated 
words of the language. 

There is a regular stereotyped gradation from 
the simplest consonants to the most difficult syllabic 
combination in Burmese and Pali : for the language is 
monosyllabic, and in words apparently consisting of 
more than one syllable each portion is separate and 
complete in itself. The course of instruction follows 
the Thinbongyi or " great basket of instruction," beginning 
with the initial letters of the alphabet— A'^^^'/ (" big K "), 
Kdgwd (" crooked K "), etc.— and gradually proceeding up 
to the most involved combinations of vowels and conson- 



ants. The alphabet is interesting, as the consonants have 
all descriptive names, referring mostly to their shapes. 
Thus, in place of our bald A, B, C to X, Y, Z, the Bur- 
mese youngster learns to know his letters as " hump- 
backed B," "little G," "pot-bellied T," "elephant-fetter 
T" (aspirated), "capped P," "water-dipper D," and the 
like, so that the mastering of the alphabet is not alto- 
gether uninteresting and unattractive. Having in some 
cases four, including aspirated, forms of a consonant 
almost similar as to sound is, however, rather a draw- 
back to its easy acquisition by the adult European. It 
also renders correct spelling somewhat difficult in the 
Burmese vernacular. 

Repetition is the basis of the system, and the boys 
intone their tasks monotonously over and over again 
in chorus at the top of their shrill, high-pitched voices. 
Morning, noon and night these lessons go on for a 
considerable time, thrice daily. After setting the daily 
tasks the monks can only close their eyes in the calm- 
ness of soothing meditation while the Babel of young 
voices keeps up in full cry. Quietness usually means 
idleness and probably mischief on the part of the boys, 
who lie face downwards on the floor each with his 
own slate in front of him containing the task for reci- 
tation. But for this discordant chorus, which is peculiarly 
irritating about five o'clock in the morning and again 
during the hottest part of the afternoon, monasteries are 
fairly comfortable places of residence for officers on tour, 
as they are generally cleaner and more commodious than 
any other buildings in the jungle villages. No matter 
how small it may be, each village usually supports at least 
one monastery. 

This gradual progress of elementary instruction in 
reading and writing, combined with very simple and 
rudimentary arithmetic, lasts for about two to three 
years, by the end of which time the boy is able to read 
ordinary manuscripts, including the religious books 
written with an iron style on dried palm leaves cut into 
strips of about fifteen inches long and two and a half 
inches in breadth. These palm-leaf manuscripts are 
formed into volumes by means of two boards of teak- 



wood of similar size, usually lacquered in vermilion and 
often richly ornamented with designs in gold. In these 
books the leaves are kept in place by two bamboo pegs, 
which pass through from board to board, the leaves 
between which are thus impaled and kept in position. 
To prevent displacement of the boards the whole is tied 
up with cords, or with narrow strips of cotton into which 
sacred precepts are often interwoven. As the books 
read in the monastery, and the oral instruction given 
in connection therewith, are invariably of a religious 
nature, the elementary education given by the monks is 
essentially religious in its character. Religious notions 
are gradually imbibed by the young pupils, who thus 
become generally acquainted with the creed of Burmese 
Buddhism, and more particularly with the Zattagd 
(Jataka) or " birth-stories " relating to the penultimate 
and the last existences of Gaudama. 

When the British came into possession of the various 
parts of the province, this simple monastic system of re- 
ligious education prevailed, and it still exists so far as the 
monasteries are concerned. There were certain centres 
of higher instruction in Pali and religious philosophy, of 
which Mandalay was latterly, and still is, the chief : for 
in all branches religion was the basis of the nationaliza- 
tion of gratuitous education. The Patamd Byan, or 
highest examination in Pali and philosophy, was held 
annually at Mandalay until the overthrow of the king- 
dom of Ava ; and it has been reinstituted by Government 
since 1896, although at first the proposal met with some 
opposition from the leading monks in Mandalay. 

The first efforts of the Government to improve edu- 
cation on systematic lines were made by Sir Arthur 
Phayre in 1866. For centuries back Roman Catholic 
missionaries had been at work in Burma, and early in 
the present century American Baptists also began 
labouring in the same field, to which they were followed 
by the servants of the Society for the Propagation of 
the Gospel. These missionaries, who taught the children 
of converts while endeavouring to convert adults, had 
long received grants in aid of education, but nothing 
had been done to raise the level of education among the 



people at large who were taught by the monks. No 
plan had any chance of success if it was likely to inter- 
fere with the time-honoured national system of elemen- 
tary instruction, or if it tended to arouse suspicion or 
hostility on the part of the monks or the people. It 
was therefore decided to distribute, to such monasteries 
as would receive them, elementary works on arithmetic, 
geography, and land-surveying, and to appoint teachers 
to go round and assist the monks, with their permission, 
in teaching the new wisdom ; while a Director of Public 
Instruction was appointed to supervise the work of the 
lay teachers and report on its progress. 

The experiment was at first confined merely to the 
principal towns ; but even there it languished so much 
that, in 1868, it was proposed to supersede it by the 
establishment of lay schools. Finally it was decided 
that both systems should be worked simultaneously, and 
gradually both monastic and lay schools were brought 
on a similar footing under the supervision of the 
Educational Department. 

The general scheme of education which thus evolved 
itself led to the encouragement and development of 
native lay and monastic schools, partly by lending 
assistant masters trained in Rangoon, partly by payments 
of grants in aid or rewards based on the results of 
inspections or examinations by the Inspectors of schools 
and their subordinates. Town schools, supported from 
municipal, town, or district cess funds, were established 
in all the towns and larger villages, for the purpose of 
imparting a somewhat higher class of education, partly 
in Burmese and pardy in English, between the mere 
primary instruction given at lay and monastic schools 
and that imparted at middle-class schools maintained by 
the State. Any head of a school could apply to have 
his school visited and the pupils examined ; while, once 
a year, examinations were held at district headquarters 
for primary scholarships tenable for two years at a 
Government middle-class school. 

In 1880 the scheme of education was revised, annual 
provincial examinations being instituted under a special 
departmental Board of Examiners. There are now nine 



standards of instruction, and the classes in schools 
correspond with these standards, while the classification 
of the school itself depends upon the highest class it 
contains. These standards are respectively termed 
lower primary, upper primary, lower secondary or middle, 
and upper secondary or high. Beyond the ninth 
standard, which is the matriculation examination of the 
Calcutta University, collegiate instruction, imparted in 
arts only, is obtainable at the Rangoon College affiliated 
to Calcutta University. Scholarships are now given 
only for middle English and University courses, except 
in the case of upper primary scholarships confined to 
Upper Burma schools. 

The gratuitous monastic schools, for boys only, still 
form the backbone of national instruction throughout 
all the rural districts, and particularly throughout Upper 
Burma. There is a special set of standards for these 
indigenous vernacular schools, none of which teaches 
beyond the seventh or lower secondary standard. In 
order that such may earn grants-in-aid from Government 
they must have a working session of at least four 
months, and an average attendance of twelve pupils, 
of whom at least four must be able to read and write 
their vernacular according to the second lowest standard. 
Non-indigenous schools, mostly established by mission- 
ary societies, receive grants-in-aid only when they 
comply with certain rules as to qualifications of teachers, 
rate of fees, admission of pupils, accommodation, and 
discipline ; but in no case is any grant given in excess of 
the amount contributed from private sources during the 
previous year for the maintenance of the school. 

Educational work was begun in Upper Burma in 
1890, as soon as the pacification of the new territory 
had progressed sufficiently to enable such a step to be 
taken, and the whole of the departmental rules under 
which Buddhist priests and other heads of schools may 
look for assistance from Government were embodied in 
an education code published in 1891. The policy of 
Government is rather to assist, regulate and inspect 
schools maintained voluntarily by monks, laymen, muni- 
cipalities, or other associations, than to found and 



manage schools of their own ; and the work of the 
officers of the Educational Department is mainly con- 
cerned with such inspection and regulation. Commis- 
sioners of Divisions and Deputy Commissioners of 
Districts are generally responsible for the state of 
education in their respective jurisdictions, and are 
expected to do all they can for its promotion. But upon 
the four Inspectors of schools rests more particularly 
the responsibility for the state of instruction in their 
circles, and for the efficiency of the work done by their 
subordinates. For the special supervision and encourage- 
ment of indigenous primary education in monastic or in 
lay schools each circle of inspection is divided into sub- 
circles corresponding with one or more of the civil 
districts, and each sub-circle is in charge of a Deputy 
Inspector or Sub- Inspector of schools. In Lower Burma 
a portion of the district cess fund is allotted to the 
support of indigenous schools, and is divided among 
the village schools by the Deputy Commissioner, who 
manages the fund and distributes the grants-in-aid 
according to the rules laid down in the education code. 
In the towns of Lower Burma a portion of the muni- 
cipal fund is similarly allotted to education, and in 1882 
the schools formerly managed by Government were, 
with the exception of the Rangoon High School, handed 
over to the municipalities. Some of the chief of these, 
however, make a fixed assignment to the Director of 
Public Instruction for the maintenance of the schools 
under technically trained supervision, in place of directly 
administering: and controlling- them. As there are no 
cess funds in Upper Burma, all educational grants are 
paid from imperial funds ; and the only municipalities 
which are directly connected with education in the towns 
are those of Mandalay and Sagaing. 

The only special Government schools which exist in 
Burma are the five Normal Schools, where pupil teachers 
are trained for municipal and aided schools, two Survey 
Schools in Rangoon and Mandalay under the control of 
the Director of Land Records and Agriculture, an ele- 
mentary Engineering School established at Rangoon in 
1895, arid a Vernacular Forest School for the training of 

257 s 


subordinates, established on my recommendation, and 
opened at Tharrawaddy in August, 1899. There is a 
law class at Rangoon College, but those desirous of 
studying medicine have to go to India. The Dufferin 
Maternity Hospital in Rangoon, however, trains women 
as midwives, and has thereby inaugurated a work of 
enormous future importance, considering the barbarous 
Burmese birth customs. 

An Educational Syndicate was established in 1881, 
consisting of a committee appointed by the Chief Com- 
missioner, and representing all educational interests. 
In 1886 it became incorporated to enable it to hold 
property in trust for educational purposes. The deli- 
berations of this syndicate, which is presided over by the 
Director of Public Instruction, are not merely confined to 
the management and economy of the Rangoon College 
and High School under its immediate control, but are also 
directed towards the furtherance of education generally, 
and more particularly towards improvements in the 
conduct and scope of examinations. It advises the 
Local Government regarding all standards of instruction 
below those prescribed by the Calcutta University, and 
undertakes the management of the middle school (seventh 
standard) examinations, and the educational tests for 
advocates, township officers (Myo-Ok), land revenue col- 
lectors {Thugyi), and clerkships in Government offices. 

Of late years the progress of education throughout 
Burma has been rapid and continuous. The total num- 
ber of schools of all sorts has risen to i 7,050, affording 
instruction to 287,987 children. Nearly three-fourths of 
these are private elementary schools, while the remain- 
der, slightly exceeding one-fourth, is chiefly composed 
of primary schools ; but the attendance at the former is 
considerably less than at the latter. Secondary educa- 
tion, imparting instruction beyond the standard fixed as 
the qualifications for clerkships in Government offices, 
is limited to seventeen schools attended by 5,093 pupils 
in 1900. The progress of university education in Burma 
is slow, the average attendance at Rangoon College being 
eighty-nine in 1900. From time to time there has been 
talk of establishing a university for Burma, but the pro- 



vince is far from ripe for such a new departure. The 
Rangoon College, affiliated to Calcutta University, and 
the Baptist College founded at Rangoon in 1895 (with 
an average daily attendance of nine in 1900), afford quite 
adequate facilities for all the existing needs in this 

A hopeful feature for the future is that the attitude of 
the monks towards secular education is gradually be- 
coming more favourable, although the method of teach- 
ing at monasteries or at village lay schools is of course 
not ordinarily in conformity with any of the standards of 
the Education Department. There are 341 girls' schools, 
and the total number of girls receiving instruction is 
32,468, or more than one-eighth of the total number of 
children attending schools. It is hardly possible to over- 
rate the importance of this advance ; for the women of 
Burma are the true heads of the households, are naturally 
gifted with keen trading instincts and business acumen, 
and are probably, as a rule, considerably better endowed 
with intellect and mental power than the men, notwith- 
standing the higher rung occupied by the latter on the 
" ladder of existence " according to Buddhistic religious 
philosophy. The movement towards the education of 
girls is, as might be expected, most noticeable in the more 
thickly populated parts of Lower Burma. 

The expenditure on education amounted in 1899- 1900 
to ;^i07, 197, of which ;^72,257 were contributed by 
Government, the largest share in the cost of develop- 
ments being borne from the provincial revenues. Pro- 
gress in primary and middle vernacular education has 
been somewhat hampered by the want of good text- 
books, but steps are being taken under a Textbook 
Committee to substitute carefully prepared translations 
of sound books of instruction for the rather badly 
arranged and unskilfully compiled works hitherto in use. 
The Shan, Kachin and Chin hill tribes have hardly as 
yet been touched by the operations of the Education 
Department ; but Tamil schools for the children of 
Madras immigrants have been brought under inspectors, 
and education has made marked progress among the 
Karens, mainly under missionary guidance. 



The Accounts Department is under a Comptroller- 
General, assisted by five Assistant Comptrollers. For 
the regulation of financial matters between the imperial 
Government of India and the provincial Government of 
Burma, a contract is entered into every five years. The 
provincial Government receives for its own requirements 
fixed proportions of the revenues as derived from various 
sources, and has to transfer the remaining portions to the 
Government of India for imperial purposes. When un- 
foreseen calls upon provincial funds occur, the financial 
equilibrium is restored temporarily by advances from the 
imperial revenues ; but such advances are repayable. 
From the very outset this provincial contract system, 
which began to operate on ist April, 1882, proved dis- 
advantageous for Burma, as had been predicted by the 
local Administration, because the proportions of revenue 
allowed were insufficient to meet the rapidly expanding 
requirements of a young and prosperous province. 
During three out of the first five years the provincial 
balance sheet closed with a deficit, which had to be made 
good from the imperial share of revenue. For some 
years before the annexation of Ava, Lower Burma had 
each year to hand over to the Government of India more 
than a crore of rupees {£666,666) ; and this gave rise to 
the outcry of the merchants that British Burma was being 
made a "milch cow" for India, and that money which 
ought to have been spent on roads, railways, and other 
communications in Burma was being misappropriated 
through bestowal on other provinces. Out of gross 
revenue receipts amounting to over ;^i, 820,000 in 
1885-86, the imperial net surplus share, after deduction 
of expenditure for liabilities, was nearly ^743,000, against 
a total provincial allotment of only ^828,000 (which 
proved insufficient), the remainder being local and muni- 
cipal rates excluded from the terms of the provincial 
contract. In 1886-87 India claimed a net revenue of 
over ;^900,ooo as her share under the contract, leaving 
only ^966,666 to cover all provincial expenditure. 

With the expenditure of the third Burmese war to be 
provided for, Burma of course had to receive special 
imperial assistance. From military outlay amounting to 



;^ 190,000 for Lower Burma in 1884-5, ^^^ charges for the 
troops in Upper and Lower Burma in 1885-86 bounded 
up to ^635,000; and they increased to ;!^i, 230,000 
in the following year. But the purely military expen- 
diture incurred on the pacification of Upper Burma, and 
the cost of the garrison during the following years, have 
already been shown in a footnote at the conclusion of 
chapter v. (see p. 149). 

As affairs were still in a state of transition when the 
first provincial contract lapsed in 1889, a provisional 
contract, following the lines of the previous one but with 
certain modifications, was made for one year on slightly 
fairer terms for Burma as estimated by a Finance Com- 
mittee. In 1888 this provisional contract was extended 
for another year with new modifications, and then con- 
tinued for other three years without further change. A 
new provincial contract was made with Lower Burma 
for five years from April, 1892; but it was considered 
that the time had not yet come for extending the pro- 
vincial contract system to Upper Burma, where large 
special outlay had to be incurred on railways, roads, irri- 
gation, buildings, and other public works of various de- 

At length, in 1897, a new quinquennial contract, called 
the " Provincial Settlement," was made with the Govern- 
ment of India. Hitherto Upper Burma finances had 
been purely imperial, the annual excess of expenditure 
over revenue being met by the Government of India 
and not by the local Government of Burma ; but now 
Upper and Lower Burma were amalgamated and unified 
for financial purposes. 

Under the terms of this settlement the provincial 
share of land revenue and excise, hitherto one-fourth, 
was raised to two-thirds and one-half respectively, to 
permit of enhanced outlay for the development of the 
province being met from the expanding receipts under 
these two chief sources of revenue. 

During the first year of its operation, in 1897-98, the 
net outcome of the provincial transactions under this 
new settlement resulted in a surplus of ^i 13,513, after 
remitting to the Imperial Treasury its full share of the 


total sum representing the net revenue of the province 
for the year.^ 

Adding to the whole Civil Expenditure the total 
Military Expenditure disbursed from Imperial funds by 
the Government of India, as shown in the table previously 
given at the end of chapter v. (see p. 149), it will be 
seen that Burma has already more than recouped all the 
outlay expended upon it from imperial and provincial 
sources since the third Burmese war. Since the end of 
1 89 1, indeed, it has more than paid its own way; and 
for the last few years it has been again yielding a large 
and rapidly expanding surplus revenue. Moreover, the 
expenditure includes the cost of State railways through- 
out Burma, which up to the 31st August, 1896, when 
they were transferred to the Burma Railways Company, 
represented a capital outlay of ;^5, 248,334, yielding a net 
return of 4*4 per cent, a year. 

^ The financial prosperity of the province may be gauged from the 
following abstract of revenue and expenditure since the annexation of 
Upper Burma (converted at rate of is. 4^. per rupee) : — 


Revenue, in Pounds Sterling, 

Civil Expenditure (including State 

Railways and all other Public Works), in 

Pounds Sterling. 

Surplus, in 












































;^54, 183,906 



The Comptroller- General is also Commissioner of 
Paper Currency, for which an office was first opened at 
Rangoon in August, 1883. The notes are issued for 
sums of five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred, five hundred, 
one thousand, and two thousand rupees, but the circula- 
tion is of course almost entirely confined to pieces up to 
one hundred rupees (^6f). Considerably more than 
one-half (83,304) of the 148,720 notes in currency in 
1900 were for ten rupees. Owing to extensive forgeries 
of five-rupee notes in 1891 the circulation of these 
became very limited, and seems to show little sign of 
improvement (7,916 in 1900). 

The District Cess Fund in Lower Burma and the 
District Funds in Upper Burma, derived from 
bazaar rents, ferries, and the like, form incorporated 
local funds taken into consideration in the provincial 
contract ; while Town, Cantonment, and Port Trust 
funds are excluded therefrom. A commencement was 
made with municipal administration in 1874, when the 
Municipal Act was passed and applied to several of the 
larger towns. There are now forty municipalities 
throughout Burma, to which members are nominated by 
the Lieutenant-Governor, except in the case of twelve 
towns where a portion of the members is returned 
by election so as to represent the various sections 
of the community. In Rangoon the President of the 
municipality is a senior Government official, whose 
services are lent specially for five years, while members 
are elected to represent Europeans, Burmese, Chinese, 
Madrasis, Hindus, and Mohammedans, in addition to 
the members nominated by Government. In all the 
other municipalities the Deputy Commissioner, the Sub- 
Divisional Officer, or the Township Officer is elected 
President, according as each municipality happens to be 
the headquarters of a district, subdivision, or township. 
The twenty-five municipalities in Lower Burma are 
administered under the Burma Municipal Act, 1898, 
while the fifteen in Upper Burma are under the Upper 
Burma Municipal Regulation, 1887. 

The Rangoon municipality has an income and an 
expenditure each over /" 200,000 a year, but is burdened 



by a debt of ^2 72, 167 (In 1900) incurred chiefly on water 
works and on the installation of the Shone sewage 
system. In 1884 large water works were opened in the 
anticipation that they would prove sufficient for many 
years to come ; but for the last ten or twelve years, con- 
sequent on the rapid growth of Rangoon after the 
annexation of Upper Burma and the introduction of the 
Shone drainage system, the question of providing a 
further supply of water has been forcing itself more 
and more prominently on public attention. Experi- 
ments have been made with artesian tube wells for 
temporarily augmenting the water supply, though 
without obviating the necessity for heavy expenditure 
on additional water works. The construction of high- 
pressure works has mitigated the inconvenience of a 
short supply since 1893, and in 1896-97 the pumping 
engines raised 766 million gallons of water. The other 
municipalities have incomes aggregating about ;^ 140, 000 
a year, which is a sufficient revenue to cover their ex- 
penditure. The incidence of municipal taxation is a 
little over five rupees (or 6^. Sd.) per head in Rangoon, 
and about one and one-seventh rupees (or is. 6^d.) in 
the other municipalities. 

In seven of the smaller towns in Lower Burma, Town 
Committees are appointed to consult about local affairs 
and the utilization of the town funds. Curiously enough, 
considering the Burmese character, some of these show 
a disposition to hoard the incoming money in place of 
expending it on useful works. 

The Telegraph Department is administered by a Chief 
Superintendent in Rangoon, and two Superintendents in 
Akyab and Mandalay, assisted by Assistant Superinten- 
dents in charge of subdivisions. In 1898 there were 
5,183 miles of telegraph lines open, with 12,786 miles of 
wires. From 118 Government offices, 76 of which are 
combined post and telegraph offices, 666,983 messages 
were despatched in 1899- 1900; but there are also 144 
railway and canal offices, and 154 smaller offices 
not open for paid telegrams. The maintenance of 
communications often involves exceedingly arduous 
work for the telegraph officers and subordinates, as 



interruptions from windfall trees are frequent on many 
of the jungle lines during the south-west monsoon 

Postal affairs are administered by a Deputy Post- 
master General, assisted by seven Sub-Superintendents 
and three Inspectors. In addition to the railway mail 
service, inland mails along the Irrawaddy and its chief 
affluents are also served by the Irrawaddy Flotilla 
Company under a five-years' contract running from ist 
August, 1896; and since ist October, 1896, the weekly 
ocean mail service between Rangfoon and Calcutta, 
performed with great efficiency and punctuality by the 
British India Steam Navigation Company, has been 
supplemented by an extra steamer in each week. Mails 
to and from Europe could be expedited if a quicker 
steamer service were arrano-ed for between Rang-oon 
and Madras ; but the British India Company, to 
which no inconsiderable share in the development of 
Burma's prosperity has been due, has not yet been 
induced to place upon the Madras run for this pur- 
pose a better class of steamer with a higher rate of 
speed. A direct mail route from Rangoon via 
Colombo to Naples or Marseilles will no doubt come 
in time as the commerce of Rangoon expands, but it 
is hardly yet a matter of urgency. 

Even in the outlying portion of the province 
postal arrangements are decidedly good. A daily 
service of runners passes from the railway line to 
Lashio, the headquarters of the Northern Shan States, 
and four times a week mails proceed from Thazi railway 
station by cart for about thirty miles to the foot of 
the Shan hills, and thence by mules to Taunggyi, the 
headquarters of the Southern Shan States, whence they 
are despatched further eastwards to Kengtung and 
Mong Hsing, Mogok, the headquarters of the Ruby 
Mines, has its mails brought up by mules thrice a week 
from Kinu on the railway line; and during 1899 a 
service by runners was initiated between Bhamo and 
Talifu, the trade emporium of the central Yunnan 

During the year 1899- 1900 nearly eighteen and a 



quarter million articles were delivered through the 287 
post offices ; and of the fourteen and a half million letters 
and postcards therein included, nearly one-fourth were in 
Burmese and Chinese characters. There is probably 
no place in the world where a more polyglot corre- 
spondence has to be dealt with than that passing 
through the Rangoon Post Office. During the same 
year money orders were issued to the extent of 
^1,748,135, and were paid to the sum of ^727,925. 
Upwards of ten per cent, of these latter issues are in the 
shape of telegraphic remittances, a convenient system 
which has long been customary throughout India. Under 
the orders of the Government of India, the system of 
paying money orders in sovereigns was introduced into 
Rangoon in March, 1900. 

Another postal convenience arising from the con- 
ditions of Anglo-Indian life is the system of value- 
payable parcel post, by which articles ordered of trades- 
men can be received through the post on payment of 
cash before delivery, the Post Office paying the declared 
net value to the sender after collection. This is a very 
doubtful benefit, as obvious drawbacks are inherent in 
the system. Savings banks have been opened at 173 
of the post offices, and showed balances amounting to 
-^550.768 in 1900. Another benevolent use made of 
post offices is for the sale of small packets of five-grain 
doses of quinine to counteract the effects of malaria. 
Made at the Government factories, the quinine is thus 
distributed at a price of one-third of a penny, which a 
little more than covers the cost of manufacture and con- 
tingencies ; and in 1899- 1900, 148,384 such doses were 
purchased. The sale is increasing largely each year, as 
the Burmese know and appreciate the properties of the 
Sdkd or " bitter medicine " in warding off and curing the 
malarious fever so prevalent in all jungle districts during 
the spring and autumn. 

Ecclesiastical matters are administered by the Bishop 
of Rangoon, assisted by an Archdeacon, the diocese 
having been formed in 1877. There are eleven 
Chaplains on this provincial branch of the Bengal 
Establishment, while five clergymen of the Additional 



Clergy Society receive allowances from Government for 
holding religious services at places where, there being 
no European troops, chaplains are not stationed. The 
Roman Catholic Church, whose missionaries, at work 
in Burma since the fifteenth century, are scattered all over 
the country and farther north-east into China, is repre- 
sented by Bishops at Rangoon and Mandalay ; while 
the American Baptist Mission, the Society for the 
Propagation of the Gospel, and the Church Missionary 
Society have their teachers resident in many of the 
healthier parts of the province. 


Chapter X 


UNDER the ancient and original land system among 
the Burmese, as detailed in the opening portions 
of the eighth section of the Laws of Manu, the complete 
title or " perfect proprietary right " was restricted either 
to land given to soldiers and royal servants, or to grants 
and assignments made by the monarch in measured allot- 
ments for the support of civil officials, or else to land 
which had descended by hereditary succession, had been 
long in the possession of the family, and was now in use 
for the cultivation of food-grain. Such areas were called 
MyHhc\ while all others were My^shin lands having an 
incomplete title or " imperfect proprietary right, liable to 
dispute." These latter comprised lands received in gift, 
land purchased from those in whose family it was here- 
ditary, land reclaimed from the forest, abandoned land 
cultivated for upwards of ten years with the knowledge 
and tacit consent of the owner, and land allotted to culti- 
vators by civil officials or village headmen. In any of 
these cases the title held good during the lifetime of the 
buyer or cultivator ; but the land could be redeemed by 
the original owner, or by his heirs, on the decease of 
the person temporarily in possession or on his wishing 
to dispose of it. 

Theoretically and legally the Kings of Burma were 
not, like most of the sovereigns in ancient India, absolute 
lords of the soil. They received a share of the produce 
of the land ; but to the land itself the people could origin- 
ally obtain a clear title conveying absolute proprietorship, 
subject only to contribution for the purposes of the State, 
by the clearance and cultivation of forest tracts. The 
title to land was therefore essentially allodial. The 



Burmese agriculturists were peasant proprietors. The 
land was held in fee-simple, and the right and title vested 
in the original occupier, and his heirs and assigns, as 
owner. To this general allodial possession, however, there 
were two exceptions, although they really did not apply 
to anything like vast extents of cultivable land. These 
were the Crown lands, and the lands held under the 
various kinds of service tenures. Apart from these two 
classes of land, the Kings of Burma laid no restrictions ^ 
on the cultivation of waste land. Any person was at 
liberty to make a clearing in the jungle ; and on bring- 
ing this under cultivation, he became its owner. In this 
case there was no tenure, no holding from an overlord. 
Clear primitive titles of this sort could, of course, only 
be obtained in a country where the amount of cultivable 
land was far In excess of the requirements of the popu- 
lation. But this right of private property in land de- 
scended In Burma as unaltered, as certain, and as absolute 
as could be expected under any oriental despotism, and 
under the rule of autocratic Kings upon whose will the 
lives and property of their subjects were practically 

The feeling of attachment to the land is strong within 
the Burmese peasantry, and so long as the members of 
a family continue to reside in the vicinity of their an- 
cestral holdings they will not willingly relinquish the 
claim they have upon the title to it. Even if a holding 
were temporarily abandoned, the Burmese customary 
laws sanctioned its being claimed again by the original 
clearer, unless the party in possession could prove that 
he had been in undisputed enjoyment of it for ten years 
of constant occupation. Thus, from ancient times down 
to the present, sales of land outright have never been 
customary. Though agricultural lands were frequently 
conveyed from one person to another for valuable con- 
sideration, through a transaction much more closely re- 
sembling a sale than any mere mortgage, yet there always 
existed a right of re-purchase, and a disability on the 
part of the purchaser to re-dispose of the land without 
the consent of the original seller. What seems at 
first sight to clash with any deep-rooted affection tor 



hereditary lands is the fact that, in the great majority of 
cases, the holdings of peasant families do not usually 
date back for many generations. This is, however, easily 
accounted for by the constant state of anarchy and mal- 
administration, and the slackness of the control exerted 
over the provincial Governors for centuries back. Thus 
the normal course of residence, generation after genera- 
tion, on the family holdings originally acquired by clear- 
ing in the primeval forest was, probably time after time, 
interfered with by social disorders necessitating the aban- 
donment of lands already cleared and migration to fresh 
clearances, which were at all times very easy to make. 
But, at the same time, the Burman has no sense of duty 
towards the land. A creature of whim and caprice, he 
will often only cultivate a part of his holding, leaving the 
rest untouched. The Upper Burman is particularly 
uncertain in this respect. He may take it into his head 
to try Lower Burma for a year or two, sell off his plough 
cattle, and abandon his fields for a time ; or he will go 
down to the delta, and work as a coolie for a season ; or 
he may rush improvidently to the opposite extreme of 
hiring labourers and trying to cultivate an area altogether 
beyond the means really at his disposal. 

The existing land system found in force when the 
Burmese Empire crumbled away during the last three- 
quarters of a century, and fell piece by piece under 
British rule, consisted, therefore, either of Crown lands, 
the property of the King, or of service- temcre lands, set 
apart as appanages in support of officials of various ranks, 
or oi petty allodial properties, held in private ownership.^ 
All the rest was waste land, either in the shape of un- 

^ The monasterial and pagoda lands ( Wuttagdn) are so compara- 
tively small that they may practically be left out of account. Regarding 
the tenure of such lands, some doubt exists as to the holder in trust 
under the State. Lands, buildings, and gifts of all kinds to the re- 
ligious body, may be dedicated in three different ways. The formula 
used may apply only to an individual recluse {Pagalika), or to several 
monks conjointly {Ganika), or else to the whole religious body present 
and future, and for public use {Singika). Pagodas, chapels, and rest- 
houses are invariably, while monasteries and monastic lands are usually, 
dedicated in this last way {Singika) ; and in this case the holder in 
trust may be presumed to be the Saddw, or chief of the religious body 



reclaimed forest jungle or of land which, after having 
been cleared and occupied, had been abandoned and 
allowed to revert into jungle. 

On the annexation of the provinces of Arakan and 
Tenasserim in 1826, and of Pegu and Martaban in 1852, 
the first two classes of land were allowed to disappear, 
their occupiers being placed on precisely the same foot- 
ing as the cultivators of other lands ; but after the 
annexation of Upper Burma in 1886, the British Govern- 
ment took possession of the Crown lands and service- 
tenure lands, and introduced a law regulating the pro- 
prietorship and the tenures of all classes of land, State 
or non-State. Waste lands thereupon became the pro- 
perty of the British Government, and the acquisition of 
new land for cultivation thenceforward took place by 
means of tenure direct from the State. 

The practice which sprang up in Lower Burma, after 
1852, was based on the customary law of the country 
as to the clearance of waste lands being open to any new 
comer. Any one could select a piece of land at his 
pleasure, clear it, and cultivate it, paying the Government 
land revenue demand upon it when the time came for the 
circle Thugyi or Revenue Collector to measure it for the 
annual assessment of land revenue. If the clearer and 
cultivator desired to hold the land free of revenue for 
some years, until it was brought into a thorough state 
of cultivation, he could make written application to the 
Thugyi for a grant up to five acres, to the subdivisional 
Magistrate if above five and under fifty acres, and to the 
Deputy Commissioner in charge of the district for an 
area over fifty acres in extent. The grants applied for 
usually varied from about five to sixteen acres. After 
the land had been surveyed, a grant was issued, cultiva- 
tion being allowed rent free for a term of years, varying 
according to the nature of the jungle which had to be 
cleared and the obstructions to be overcome in bringing 

in the district, who usually appoints a head monk to the monastery in 
case of the death of its occupant. Under either of the first two forms 
of dedication {Pagalika and Ganika), the giver and his heirs and re- 
presentatives are in practice considered the holders in trust of such 




the soil into a state of thorough cultivation. For rice 
cultivation the period of exemption varied from one to 
seven years, the latter being in high tree-forest, the roots 
of which took long to rot and were hard to remove ; 
while for orchard cultivation rent-free tenure was per- 
mitted up to a limit of twelve years, in proportion to 
the trouble of clearing and the time when the fruit-trees 
would begin to yield returns. Special periods of exemp- 
tion were also permissible in the case of land requiring 
extra expenditure beyond mere clearance, as in tracts 
needing irrigation works to make them productive, or 
needing embankments to protect them from inundation. 

The modes of acquiring ownership of land in the 
rural tracts of Lower Burma are prescribed in die Burma 
Land and Revenue Act, 1876, which gave the force of 
law to the above system based mainly upon the custom- 
ary modes of acquisition found current when the province 
came under British rule. Under this enactment, owner- 
ship in land may be acquired either by squatters' rights, 
exercised over the same piece of ground for twelve years 
without interruption, or by a specific grant from the 
State made through the district officials and to the ex- 
tent above indicated. The first of these modes of 
acquisition prevails in all the more settled parts of the 
country, where permanent villages and hamlets have long 
maintained their position, and where there is consequently 
a more advanced state of cultivation ; for under such 
circumstances the margin of waste land still available 
continually tends to decrease, and the holdings of indi- 
vidual cultivators are gradually increased by extending 
the existing clearances for permanent cultivation. When 
single households or small communities of two or three 
families cut themselves adrift from their old associations, 
and go elsewhere to make fresh clearances in the forest 
with a view to permanent cultivation and residence, the 
exercise of squatters' rights is also a not unusual method 
of acquiring a title to the land cleared ; but, in the 
majority of cases, new settlers in remote jungle tracts 
usually secure the speedier and more formal and direct 
ownership by obtaining a Patta or grant from the State. 
As clearances of this sort are almost invariably under 



five acres per individual holding, the great bulk of the 
ordinary grants for new cultivation were formerly issued 
by the Thugyi of the revenue circles into which each 
township of a district is subdivided ; but under new 
rules, sanctioned in 1897, all power of making grants 
has now been withdrawn from Thugyi, whose position 
exposed them to the temptations of land-jobbing. The 
tendency of these new rules was to prevent unnecessary 
applications for land grants, and to secure a more exact 
scrutiny of the terms upon which land is granted, care 
being taken to try and check acquisition by mere specu- 
lators. During 1895-96, 70,150 acres (109 square miles) 
of land were granted free of revenue for a term of years 
under the Act in Lower Burma ; while in the following 
year the areas granted fell to 34,070 acres (53 square 
miles), mainly in consequence of the check then given to 
land speculation, and of greater care in issuing grants. 
In 1898-99 the grants rose again to 55,870 acres (87 
square miles), and in 1899-1900 they increased to 68,534 
acres (107 square miles). 

Larger grants of land, amounting actually in some 
cases even to upwards of thirty square miles in extent, 
had formerly been made by Government throughout 
Arakan, Pegu and Tenasserim, with the object of 
enabling capitalists ( ThuU) to bring these great estates 
{ThuU My^ or "rich man's land") speedily into culti- 
vation by means of imported labour. All such grants 
were made under the old Waste Land Rules, which were 
superseded when the Land and Revenue Act came into 
force in 1876. The results anticipated by Government 
in creating estates of this nature were, however, not 
realized, even although exceedingly liberal terms of 
exemption from rent or revenue had been attached to 
these tenures. In some cases the grantees applied for 
and obtained great stretches of forest land apparently 
rather for the purpose of working out the existing stock 
of mature timber — other than teak, the proprietary right 
over which vested solely in Government — than with any 
bon^ fide intention of investing capital in trying to bring 
their grant-lands speedily into permanent cultivation. 
This endeavour to create large agricultural estates proved 

273 T 


rather a failure. Many of the grants were from time to 
time voluntarily surrendered, or were resumed owing to 
non-compliance with the conditions under which they 
were held, such as failure to bring a certain proportion 
under cultivation within a certain period, or failure to 
pay the revenue demand when the land in due time be- 
came assessable thereto. In 1897 the number of existing 
grants, dating from the time of the Waste Land Rules, 
was one hundred, the total area held under which 
amounted to 159,859 acres, or 250 square miles. All 
these have already become assessable to land- revenue 
except nine grants ; and, of these nine, four will ulti- 
mately become assessable, while five were granted under 
conditions exempting them from such liability. 

The provisions, above sketched, for the extension of 
permanent cultivation throughout the plains do not apply 
to the shifting Taungya or temporary "hill-clearings" 
practised for rice-cultivation by the Karens and other 
jungle folks inhabiting the low, forest-clad hills of Lower 
Burma — a wasteful, primitive, nomadic system, which is 
elsewhere described in detail {vide chapter xvii.). Sub- 
ject to the payment of an annual Taungya tax, these 
hill-men can migrate from year to year, clearing, burn- 
ing, and cultivating patches of forest not included either 
within State Reserved Forests, or in tracts preliminarily 
notified for inquiry and settlement, with a view to pro- 
posed reservation. The killing or injury of teak and 
certain other reserved trees, and permitting fire to spread 
into Reserved Forests are also prohibited, and are made 
punishable under the forest laws ; but the latter are, in 
these particular respects, applied only with leniency and 
discretion. In many of the Reserved Forests Taungya 
tracts have been set apart exclusively for the practice of 
this form of agriculture by the Karens located in or near 
these at the time of reservation and settlement. Thus, 
of the 17,153 square miles of Reserved Forests through- 
out Burma in 1900, 865 square miles were burdened in 
this manner with Taungya rights or privileges. 

In some parts of the country, as, for example, among 
the inhabitants of the higher hills between the Sittang 
and the Salween rivers, the pressure of population has 



led to the tacit recognition of definite tribal or communal 
tracts within which shifting cultivation is carried on with 
a definite and regular system of rotation. The Land 
and Revenue Act recognises the necessities of the jungle 
tribes with regard to this hereditary mode of cultivation, 
and provides for Taungya tracts being formally assigned 
to communities which make application to this effect in 
order to keep newcomers away from the localities where 
the applicants have been accustomed to exercise Taungya 
rights. The importance of this shifting hill cultivation 
in Burma may be estimated from the fact that about six 
per cent, of the total male population is engaged in it. 
Endeavours are being made, by offers of land and of ad- 
vances for the purchase of plough cattle, to induce the 
hill-men to take to permanent cultivation on the plains 
fringing the hills. In course of time many will thus 
change their habits ; but in a country like Burma there 
will always remain a large number who prefer the freer 
and rather romantic nomad life in the forest to the more 
monotonous existence in villages surrounded by perma- 
nent cultivation on the plains. 

When the lines were fixed upon which the adminis- 
tration of Upper Burma was to be conducted, the law 
regulating the land system was embodied in the Upper 
Burma Land and Revenue Regulation, 1889, which 
differs in many respects from the Act in force in the 
older portion of the province. A primary division of 
all land was made into State land and non-State land. 
The former included all the Crown lands of different 
denominations [Ledaw, Ayddaw, Lamaingmy^ — as pre- 
viously described in chapter vi.), all lands held under 
service-tenures of various kinds, all waste and forest 
land, and all land which had been abandoned after being 
brought under cultivation, and to the ownership of which 
no claim was preferred within two years of the enforce- 
ment of the Regulation, i.e. up to 13th July, 189 1. The 
non-State Land comprised all lands held in private 
ownership, and included pagoda or monasterial lands 
(Wuttagdii), hereditary lands (^Bobdbaing) in possession 
of the descendants of persons who cleared them, or of 
those who obtained them by purchase from the original 


owner (clearer) or his descendants, or the ownership of 
which had been conveyed under a written grant from 
the King, and lands cleared and reclaimed {Dantdg^cyd) 
before the enforcement of the Regulation and still in 
the possession of the person who thus brought it into 
cultivation. These non-State lands are allodial posses- 
sions already alienated from the ownership of Govern- 
ment. They are consequently held as freeholds, and 
not under tenure of any description, the peasant proprie- 
tors of all hereditary and reclaimed lands being merely 
burdened with the ThdtliamMd or house-tax as their direct 
contribution towards the support of the Administration. 

In the case of the Crown lands and the lands held 
under service-tenures, the British Government simply 
assumed the rights previously enjoyed by the Burmese 
Kings. But with regard to all waste lands, and lands 
which had been allowed to revert into jungle after once 
being cleared for cultivation, they did much more than 
this in declaring all such waste land to be the property 
of Government and decreeing that no such land may be 
cultivated except in accordance with rules framed under 
the Land Regulation. A system of land-tenure was thus 
introduced in place of the previously existing allodial 
peasant proprietorship. These rules provide for the 
grant of leases of waste land for any period not exceed- 
ing thirty years, and for the grant of permits to occupy 
such land temporarily. Cultivators wishing to occupy 
waste land can adopt either of these methods of acquisi- 
tion. The rules, modelled on those in force in Lower 
Burma, provide for the levy of revenue on areas leased 
and occupied, and for the temporary exemption from 
revenue of areas which have first to be cleared of grass, 
scrub, or tree-jungle before they can yield remunerative 
crops. In 1895-96 leases of waste land were granted 
only to the extent of 9,806 acres (15 square miles) in 
Upper Burma, as the majority of new cultivators pre- 
ferred to do without leases. In the following year the 
area leased sank to 6,154 acres (9f square miles) owing 
to the rules being amended by a provision expressly 
prohibiting the transfer of any lease of State land to a 
non-agriculturist or a non- Burmese without the permission 



of the township officer; for the Upper Burman was thus 
paternally protected against usurers of his own race and 
the more rapacious Indian money-lenders. In 1898-99 
the area rose to 1 1,236 acres (17^ square miles), and it fell 
off again to 9,761 acres (i5:|- square miles) in 1 899-1900. 
Some of these State lands were put up to auction for 
sale of the occupancy rights. Thus, in 1896-97, 4,163 
acres of rice land were sold in the Mandalay district ; 
but such sales of the right of occupation are now infre- 
quent, owing to the restrictions applied with regard to 
the transfer of the tenant's interest. 

It will thus be seen that while a simple uniform land 
system sprang up in Lower Burma under British ad- 
ministration, a more complex system is in force through- 
out Upper Burma. In the latter case there were not 
only large stretches of Ledaw or " royal lands " let out 
to tenants of the Crown paying a rental varying in 
amount up to one-fourth of the produce, at which share 
it was usually fixed, but also a class of landowners in 
the persons of those, or of their descendants, who had 
received grants of land through the special favour of 
the King. Tenancy under landlords was therefore, and 
still is, much more common throughout Upper than in 
Lower Burma, The tenants occupying State land have 
the incidents of their tenure, and their rights and privi- 
legfes, laid down in the rules under the Land Regrulation. 
Fixation of rent is provided for on a consideration of 
the market value of the produce and of the amount of 
the customary rent. Provision is also made for the 
eviction of tenants after notice and on payment of com- 
pensation for improvements, or on further additional pay- 
ment for disturbance in default of due notice to quit. 
Tenancy under private landlords is not privileged with 
any fixity of tenure, nor are there any legal limits to the 
rents which may be demanded. In these respects the 
position of tenants of private individuals is similar to 
that of tenants in Lower Burma. 

Although the normal condition of the Burmese agri- 
culturist is that of a peasant proprietor, yet the number 
of tenancies which have recently sprung up in the centres 
of rice-production is already considerable, and the class 



of tenants appears to be growing quickly. It is mainly 
recruited from persons who have formerly possessed the 
land but have had to part with the ownership owing to 
debt, and who now occupy as tenants the holdings they 
originally held in fee simple. Other tenancies are often 
also held, particularly in the deltoid tracts, by newcomers 
from other districts and by young men setting up house ; 
for on marrying it is still not unusual for a young man 
to live for two or three years in the house of his parents- 
in-law and to work for them, or to be a tenant on a portion 
of their land, before he and his wife found a separate 
household of their own. 

As registration of transfers of land is not in every case 
compulsory, a precise estimate cannot be made as to the 
extent to which land is being year after year transferred 
from its original owners to their creditors. But such 
transfers are annually increasing in all tracts within easy 
reach of trading centres in Lower Burma, and there is 
a corresponding steady increase in the area of land 
cultivated by agriculturists who have descended to the 
position of tenants having no statutory rights. As a 
cultivator acquiring land under the Land Revenue Act 
has transferable rights in his holding, borrowing money 
on mortgage of these is thus rendered easy in all locali- 
ties where land has obtained a market value ; and 
money-lenders are usually to be found ready to make 
advances by means of which they can ultimately secure 
to themselves the ownership of land which they will 
probably be able to let at six rupees (eight shillings) or 
more per acre, the former owners being often left in 
possession as tenants. The condition of tenants is on 
the whole prosperous, even although they have no fixity 
of tenure and there is no legal limit to rents. The only 
safeguards against rack-renting, and they have hitherto 
proved efficient, are the facts that there is a considerable 
competition for tenants, that a fresh tenancy is not diffi- 
cult to obtain, and that in most districts fresh land for 
cultivation under direct holding from Government can 
generally be had on easy terms by moving elsewhere to 
less populous tracts. 

The rent fixed by custom in parts of the Bassein and 




Henzada districts in the extreme west of the Irrawaddy 
delta is ten per cent, of the gross produce, measured 
after harvest, p/iis the land revenue. Under this custom 
the tenant only pays rent on the crop he has reaped. 
As the actual amount of the rent is thus only known 
after the harvest, partial relief is practically afforded to 
the tenant in case of any circumstances operating to pre- 
vent him from obtaining the full quantity of crop usually 
yielded by the land, and any loss thus arising is distri- 
buted between landlord and tenant. 

Increase of population and increase of cultivation in 
all the districts within easy reach of the centres of the 
rice-export trade naturally tend to diminish the area of 
cultivable waste land capable of being reclaimed for 
permanent cultivation ; and this of course tends to estab- 
lish a marketable value for land, which is much more 
likely to rise in the future than to remain stationary or 
to fall. It is naturally therefore in tracts of this descrip- 
tion that foreclosures on land mortgages are most 
numerous. Creditors usually prefer to make further 
advances to their debtors in order to induce the latter to 
hold on to their fields, rather than foreclose and take 
possession of land which they cannot cultivate them- 
selves, and for which it is at present difficult to get 
tenants. A decided movement is, however, gradually 
taking place in the direction of tenancies throughout the 
richer portions of Lower Burma, where nearly twenty- 
one per cent, of the whole occupied area is now held by 
tenants. This tendency may be seen from the following 
statistics, even though these data are not complete : — 

Area occu- 



Land Sold. 


No. of 

pied by 

Rent per 












































The improvidence of the Burmese tends to drive agri- 
culturists into the hands of money-lenders ; and this has 
resulted in the formation of a class of non-agriculturist 
landlords, which now numbers over eighteen thousand in 
Lower Burma. But at the same time agriculturists with 
money at disposal are purchasing holdings largely, so 
that it cannot at present be said that the land has yet 
passed to any large and serious extent out of the hands 
of the ag^riculturist class. Yet in some districts, as in 
Tharrawaddy, such a danger exists ; and an experimental 
Tenancy Bill is now under consideration with a view to 
checking abuses of their rights by landlords. 

As the rent is usually paid in kind, the rental value of 
land fluctuates from year to year with the current price 
of paddy or of the other crop raised. Thus the apparent 
increase in average rental value of rice lands, which rose 
from 6"88 rupees in 1895-96, culminated in 1898-99, 
and then decreased slightly to 8*15 rupees in 1899- 1900, 
was solely due to fluctuation in the price of paddy, and 
not to any variation in the actual rental value of land 
from competition among tenants. A favourable market 
for paddy also enables landlords to find tenants for land 
which would otherwise remain uncultivated if the price 
of paddy seems likely to be low during the next ship- 
ping season. The market value of land became tem- 
porarily reduced a few years ago, partly on account of 
lower prices for paddy being anticipated, and partly also 
through Government assessing at full rates all fallow 
lands held by non-cultivators, for the purpose of impos- 
ing a check on land-jobbing and the wholesale transfer 
of land to non-agriculturists in the deltoid districts. The 
more careful application of the rules concerning the fallow 
rate has on the one hand deterred professional money- 
lenders and traders from being too eager in acquiring 
the proprietorship of land, while on the other it has 
impelled them to seek tenants for such land as they hold 
already. As uncropped land belonging to an absentee 
landlord is now assessed at the full rate of revenue 
instead of at the fallow rate, it has thus been rendered 
less profitable for money-lenders to hold large areas of 
cultivable land as a mere speculation for a rise in price. 



The enforcement of a stricter practice with regard to 
fallow rates has further had the very beneficial effect of 
inducing some persons to relinquish land which they 
were unable to cultivate themselves, and has thus thrown 
open areas for occupation by other cultivators who take 
up the land under direct tenure from Government. 

Land in towns in Lower Burma is held partly 
under grants or leases made in accordance with rules 
promulgated from time to time, and partly by squatters ; 
and there is no law under which fresh rights in town 
lands can now be acquired. In Upper Burma there is 
also no special law on the subject of town lands, though 
rules modelled on those in force in Lower Burma were 
issued in 1890 for the grant of leases and were extended 
to the principal towns. 

The land survey system adopted about twenty years 
ago by the Agricultural Department in Lower Burma 
was a cadastral survey consisting of an exterior survey 
by theodolite, in connection with which there is an 
interior field-to-field survey. The country under survey 
being first of all divided into large circuits or polygons, 
the geographical position of each of these is carefully 
fixed and the included area ascertained. Each circuit is 
subdivided into minor polygons, whose geographical 
position and area are likewise carefully determined. 
Within these minor circuits come the Kwin or local 
circuits of cultivation, forming polygons rarely exceeding 
one to two and a half square miles in area, which are 
dealt with in a similar exact manner as to boundaries, 
position, and area. These Kwin are simply compact 
blocks of rice cultivation and waste land of convenient 
size, situated near each village or hamlet, — the word 
Kwm, meaning "a cleared plain" or also "a circuit, a 
ring," having from time immemorial been used to denote 
something like the village or communal lands, as if 
enclosed in an imaginary ring-fence. 

When the accuracy of the survey has been proved by 
repeated check processes, resulting in the perfect agree- 
ment of the smallest, the intermediate, and the largest 
circuits, the field {Le) is entered upon it as the unit of 
survey. This is a square or rectangular piece of paddy 



land enclosed by low ridges thrown up for the purpose 
of keeping in the water, upon a large supply of which the 
rice-cultivation is dependent. These ridges are called 
Kansinyb, which literally means " straight walls forming 
a water-tank." The fields thus divided vary in extent 
from about a quarter of an acre in the drier districts of 
Prome and Thayetmyo, above the apex of the Irrawaddy 
delta, to about an acre in extent throughout the great 
moist alluvial plains within the deltaic zone. Until the 
aggregate of the field areas corresponds with the area of 
the Kwin polygon, the field survey is not accepted as 
correct. Accuracy of detail is thus guaranteed by the 
cadastral survey, before further operations can be com- 
menced for the settlement of the land revenue. 

The experience acquired during the last twenty years 
has shown that the adoption of the field as the unit of 
survey was a prudent measure, for the field-to-field survey 
is the most efficient and the cheapest method that could 
be adopted. Any attempt to artificially enlarge this 
convenient and practical, though small, unit would only 
increase the cost of the detailed survey without being 
compensated either by greater rapidity in survey or 
greater precision. As the field is after all the practical 
unit of cultivation, and of all movement and change in 
cultivation, no artificial limitation or determination of the 
unit of survey could prevent the field from stamping 
itself as the main practical unit on the map. Even with 
fields averaging only one-third of an acre in area, a 
cadastral survey party can in a working season turn out 
field-maps for from seven to eight hundred square miles 
of country. Begun in 1879, the cadastral survey has 
now been completed throughout all the districts in Lower 

In the maintenance of the cadastral maps and the 
settlement registers from year to year a supplementary 
survey is employed, whose operations cover the whole 
area surveyed, and consequently extend to almost the 
whole of the regularly cultivated tracts throughout the 
older portion of the province. 

When any part of a district has been surveyed and 
settled, it is transferred to the charge of this Supplemen- 



tary Survey and Registration Department, which under- 
takes the survey and mapping, on fresh copies of the 
original village maps, of all changes and extensions ; and 
it also prepares and maintains registers showing the areas 
of these changes and extensions, holding by holding, and 
their resultingf chano-es in the assessments. The 
methods adopted are similar to those of the cadastral 
survey and the settlement, so that the work of this 
department practically consists in an annual revision of 
the areas and the assessments of the old cultivation, 
together with an annual survey and assessment of the 
new cultivation. 

Apart from the administrative advantage of having, in 
a conveniently arranged form, the mass of well estab- 
lished facts which this department is constantly collect- 
ing year by year, its operations are rendered necessary 
in consequence of the law and custom governing the 
acquisition, cultivation, and assessment of land in Burma. 
As the land is free, any person can, after obtaining the 
requisite permission, and without further let or hindrance, 
take up practically as much new land as he or she pleases 
and is able to bring under cultivation. Old fields may 
be surrendered in whole or in part, or may be left fallow, 
or may be let out to tenants. The Government, as over- 
lord of the land taken up under grant, does not interfere 
with regard to movement in any of these directions. 
The revenue demand depends on the area of land 
actually cultivated or from which profit is derived, fallow 
rates being imposed, as previously mentioned, only in the 
case of land-holding non-agriculturists, and for the 
express purpose of trying to check land-jobbing by 
speculators. In order to adapt the assessment to this 
custom of free cultivation, the entire area under cultivation 
has therefore to be annually examined, each and every 
change in the old cultivation that can effect the revenue 
demand being carefully noted, and the assessment for the 
current year modified accordingly. The ground broken 
for new cultivation has also to be examined, surveyed, 
and plotted on the maps ; the respective areas have, 
holding by holding, to be computed ; and the new assess- 
ment rolls have to be prepared. 



The system of settlement for the assessment of the 
land-revenue demand was also begun in 1879, and has 
since then been carried out continuously, until it has 
now been almost completed for Lower Burma. The 
principle adopted consisted in acre rates based upon the 
ascertained productivity of the chief varieties of soil and 
fixed for a term of years, in annual survey of the changes 
taking place in area, and in corresponding adjustments 
of the assessment on each individual holding. Thus, 
while the rates remain unaltered throughout a term 
usually fixed at fifteen years, the assessments on indi- 
viduals may vary from year to year with changes in the 
areas of their holdings. 

Settlement operations are conducted by selected junior 
members of the Commission, who remain for several 
years deputed on this special duty. The control and 
administration of operations are vested in a Settlement 
Commissioner, who is directly subordinate to the Finan- 
cial Commissioner. At the time of the settlement, the 
holding of each cultivator is registered field by field, and 
a record is made of the cultivator's status, in which it is 
shown whether he be a landholder by prescription (from 
original squatting rights), a grantee, a lessee, a tenant, or 
a mortgagee. The area of each field and the total area 
of each holding are also noted. All these details are 
entered in a principal settlement register, which practi- 
cally forms a basis for all subsequent statistics as well 
as for readjustments of the assessments on each holding. 
This settlement register, in fact, represents the exact 
state of each holding during the year in which the settle- 
ment takes place. 

In the year following that in which the settlement is 
carried out, the duty of maintaining the land records is 
assumed, as already described, by the Supplementary 
Survey and Registration Department, which ascertains 
any changes that have taken place in the state of each 
holding, and records them in a register which is the 
counterpart of the original settlement register. Should 
it happen that the cultivator has enlarged his holding by 
bringing some of the existing waste land under the 
plough or by purchasing a field from a neighbour, he is 



assessed on the increased area, while a corresponding 
reduction is made in the case of a cultivator who has 
meanwhile sold or surrendered any portion of his former 
area under cultivation. The original settlement and the 
subsequent annual supplementary registers and assess- 
ments thus record from year to year the entire history 
of each holding. By this simple process of addition 
and subtraction each holding should, at the end of 
the term for which the rates have been fixed, be found 
just as correctly recorded as the original holdings 
were when the settlement operations were first 
carried out. 

The rates of assessment fixed at the time of settle- 
ment are arrived at after careful inquiry by the settlement 
officers over wide and varied tracts, and are based on 
the actual quality and productivity of the land as ascer- 
tained by careful harvesting and measurement of the 
grain in several hundreds of fields. The results thus 
obtained in kind are then transformed into their money 
valuation at rates deduced from the average prices of 
produce for several years back. Wherever substantial 
differences are found in the quality or crop-producing 
power of the soil, the patches of inferior land are marked 
off from those of superior quality, and separate rates are 
fixed in proportion to the ascertained differences in pro- 
ductive capacity. 

Until within the last few years it had been the custom 
in Lower Burma that the cultivator should only pay the 
full assessment rates on the area actually under crop. 
He could leave uncultivated as much of his holding as 
he liked, and on this uncultivated portion a merely 
nominal rate of assessment of two annas or twopence an 
acre was imposed as a sort of quitrent, upon payment of 
which the cultivator retained all his rights in the land. 
It was thus fallow only in the obsolete meaning of this 
agricultural term, because it was unsown and neglected ; 
but it was not ploughed and left an open fallow as the 
term is now used in England. A fallow field in Burma 
is one that is left untouched after a paddy crop has been 
reaped from it, and remains unploughed till the cultivator 
feels inclined to take another crop from it. The usual 



reason for letting land lie idle in this way is that the 
owner is either unwilling or unable to cultivate it. This 
low two-anna rate on so-called fallows is still maintained, 
though the extent of its application has been considerably 
curtailed owing to the increase in the value of land and 
the growth of a landlord class. The two-anna rate is 
consequently now only levied on the whole or any part 
of a holding which is left uncultivated either for the 
purpose of allowing the soil to recover from slight 
temporary exhaustion or because the owner is unable to 
cultivate it through causes beyond his control, such as 
illness, deaths in his family, loss of cattle, or the like. 
An assessment varying from two annas per acre up to the 
normal rate for cultivated land is, at the discretion of the 
Deputy Commissioner, now levied from land left unculti- 
vated for grazing purposes, or which remains uncultivated 
in any year after having been generally sublet during the 
previous five years, or which, after having been granted 
with exemption from revenue for a term of years, has not 
been brougrht under cultivation within a reasonable 
period, or which has otherwise been a source of profit to 
the owner during the year of assessment. That full 
rates of assessment have within the past few years, with 
the view of checking land-jobbing, been demanded on all 
fallows held by non-agriculturists and all uncropped land 
belonging to absentee landlords, has already been 

When crops have been wholly or partially destroyed 
by inundations, or drought, or any other cause beyond 
the cultivator's control, remissions of land revenue are 
granted. No remission is made unless the damage to 
the crop causes a loss exceeding one-third of the esti- 
mated average full crop of the holding. If the whole, or 
nearly the whole, of the crop has been destroyed, the 
whole of the revenue is remitted ; but, otherwise, the 
remission is proportioned to the extent of the partial loss. 
Though quite distinct from abatements on account of 
fallows, the two kinds of remission often coincide in 

The system of settlement thus sketched has been 
carried out in strict accordance with the agricultural 



usages of the province, the customs of the people being 
duly recognized and placed on record. While no 
restrictions, not previously imposed, have been placed on 
the free exercise of their rights and privileges, all that is 
traditional and of advantage to the peasantry has been 
maintained and properly regulated. A villager may 
cultivate as much land as he likes ; but he only pays land 
revenue on the area which he crops, or from which he 
derives rent or other profit or advantage. The system 
of annual supplementary survey and registration intro- 
duced ensures prompt adjustment of the assessment 
according to changes in the area cultivated each year ; 
and by thus ensuring due elasticity in. the land-revenue 
demand, it also permits of free exercise of the individual 
right to extend or curtail cultivation according to personal 
circumstances for the time beingf. 

In Upper Burma the system of survey is practically 
the same as in the lower portion of the province, the 
field being again taken as the unit. The only important 
difference is that, in place of a Kwin, the unit of assess- 
ment is the Ywd or " village," consisting of the collection 
of houses forming the hamlet or village proper, together 
with the land belonging to the villagers and under the 
jurisdiction of the village headman. 

The work of the cadastral survey in Upper Burma 
was commenced in the Kyaukse district in November, 
1889, under considerable difficulties. The native Indian 
subordinates, new to the country, and in constant fear of 
being attacked and cut up by dacoits, were most reluctant 
to venture out of their camps, and large numbers of the 
surveyors and chainmen were unable to work owing to 
malarial fever. The nature of the country and the 
novelty of the peculiar circumstances under which work 
had to be done also retarded progress at first ; for the 
village boundaries were usually irrigation channels, the 
banks of which were clothed with a thick fringe of dense 
scrub jungle, while all through the dry season the rice- 
fields were flooded by irrigation. 

The system of supplementary survey and registration 
in Upper Burma is practically the same as in Lower 
Burma, but the system of settlement differs considerably 



owing to the local circumstances and customs. In Lower 
Burma one settlement officer deals finally with an area 
of about six hundred square miles in each year ; but in 
Upper Burma, aided by several assistants, he deals with 
an area of three to four times that extent, over which his 
operations extend for three years. During this time he 
and his assistants record tenures, harvest and measure 
crops from sample areas, and collect agricultural statistics 
over the whole area, fresh test measurements and fresh 
statistics being collected over the same area in each year. 
At the end of the third year the settlement officer sub- 
mits his report embodying the information collected and 
the conclusions drawn by him therefrom, and proposing 
rates for assessment. 

With respect to details in procedure the work of the 
settlement officer also differs considerably from the 
practice in force in Lower Burma, being much more diffi- 
cult and varied. In Lower Burma there are practically 
only one agricultural season, from June till December, 
only one kind of crop, paddy or rice, and only one kind 
of tenure, peasant proprietorship, to be dealt with ; and 
the field operations of the settlement officer are restricted 
to the dry season from December till April or May, while 
he has no direct concern with the non-cultivating classes 
of the people. In Upper Burma, however, there are 
at least three separate agricultural seasons for rice-culti- 
vation alone — the Kmikkyi or ordinary rainy season crop, 
grown on land watered by rainfall or irrigation ; the 
Kaukti, grown on irrigated lands, usually as a second 
crop on the Kaukkyi land, between February and June ; 
and the Mayin or hot-weather crop, grown on swampy 
land and reaped in May. There are also many varieties 
of field crops (rice, maize, chillies, peas, grain, wheat, etc.) 
and several kinds of land tenure to be considered ; and 
in most districts, owing to the comparative lightness of 
the rainfall, field operations can be conducted throughout 
the whole twelve months of the year. And, finally, an 
important part of the work is to adjust, with reference 
to the non-agricultural classes, the Thdtham^dd or house- 
tax to be levied from the trading and non-cultivating 
portion of the population. 



This tax, introduced by King Mindon into Upper 
Burma, was retained by the British Government on the 
annexation, and still forms the principal tax there. Its 
incidence usually amounts to ten rupees (13^". ^d.) per 
house, though in exceptional cases it is less than this. 
Thus, the Shan communities in the Bhamo district pay 
only five rupees (6s. 8d.) per household, in consequence 
of this special rate having been fixed in Burmese times. 
Residents in two townships of the Kyaukse district were 
accustomed to be assessed at a reduced rate of six rupees 
(Ss.) per house, owing to their being required to turn out 
and repair breaches in canals without receiving remunera- 
tion for their labour ; but this unsatisfactory system was 
abolished in 1893. Those cultivating above seven acres 
of royal land were altogether exempt from the tax. 
Throughout the hill tracts inhabited by Karens in the 
Yamethin district the rate varies from three to four 
rupees (4s. to 5^. ^d.) per house. 

The tax is now assessed in much the same manner as 
formerly. The Thugyi or village headman reports the 
number of houses in his village. This statement is 
checked by the My6 Thugyi or headman of a circle, in 
districts where there are such officers, or else by the 
My6 Ok or township magistrate, the Akunwmt or native 
revenue officer of the district, and the district ofificer and 
his subdivisional assistants. The sum due from each 
village having been fixed, Thamddi or assessors (lit. 
" ascertainers of truth "), corresponding to the village 
elders, determine the amount to be contributed by each 
householder ; and, as a rule, there are no serious objec- 
tions raised to the individual incidence of the tax under 
the operations of the assessors. Special exemptions are 
given during years of scarcity, or whenever exceptional 
reasons exist for not demanding the usual full amount ; 
while religious recluses, public officials, and all persons 
incapable of earning their own livelihood are exempt 
from any contribution. 

The revenue law of Upper Burma provides for the 
levy of Thdtha7nMd on all classes of the population, for 
the assessment of rent on State land, and for the assess- 
ment of revenue on non-State land. But as no revenue 

289 u 


was assessed on land of the latter class by the Burmese 
Government, the British revenue law recognizes this fact 
by authorizing that when revenue is levied on such land 
the owners of the same may obtain exemption from or 
reduction of the Thdtham^dd. The work of the settle- 
ment officer in Upper Burma is therefore threefold, 
namely, (i) to draw up a record of rights and occupation 
in land, (2) to propose rates for the assessment of all cul- 
tivated lands, in the form of rent for State land and 
revenue for non- State land, and (3) to submit proposals 
for the adjustment of the ThdthamMd on the non-agricul- 
tural classes and on those classes whose livelihood 
depends only partly on agriculture and mainly on other 

The first section of these settlement duties includes 
the ascertaining and recording of the exact area of land 
owned or occupied by each person, and the kind of tenure 
upon which it is held or occupied. These facts are 
entered in registers and become the records-of-rights 
which have under the Land Regulation to be maintained 
throughout Upper Burma. 

The assessment of rent and revenue is based upon 
deductions drawn from the information collected as to the 
productivity of the soil, the cost of cultivation, and the 
value of the produce. With reference to the final section 
of the settlement officer's duties, information is collected 
as to the occupations and means of livelihood of the 
people with a view to determining what amount of 
Thdthamddd can equitably be demanded from them after 
revenue has been assessed on non- State land. The main 
principles that have been laid down for his guidance are, 
firstly, that persons dependent solely on agriculture are 
to be exempted from the house-tax ; secondly, that 
persons who, though partly dependent on agriculture, 
derive the substantial portion of their income from 
other sources, are to pay ThdthamMd at a reduced rate ; 
and, thirdly, that persons who derive the whole of their 
income from other sources than agriculture are to pay the 
house-tax to the same extent as before the settlement. 

Following these principles, the settlement officer 
utilizes the statistics he has carefully collected in drawing 



up proposals for exempting the purely agricultural section 
of the population altogether from the Thdthamddd, for re- 
ducing it in amount in the case of those partially dependent 
on cultivation of the land, and for assessing to the full 
amount those earning their livelihood by trades, handi- 
crafts, and the like. The rates thus fixed at settlement 
include the rent rates assessed on State land, the revenue 
rates assessed on non- State land, and the house-tax rates 
assessed on income derived otherwise than from aericul- 
ture. These rates vary from about one rupee to three 
rupees (i^. \d. to \s.) per acre on the different qualities 
of rice lands, due consideration being of course given to 
the various localities and their lines of communication 
with the great centres of the rice export trade. 

The proposals made by the settlement officer for the 
assessment of the land revenue are not accepted without 
the most careful scrutiny, or without measures being taken 
to safeguard the interests of the people on the one hand 
and of the Government on the other. The settlement 
officer submits his report to the Commissioner of the 
division, who forwards it with his remarks and criticisms 
to the Settlement Commissioner. Here it is again scruti- 
nized very carefully before being submitted for the con- 
sideration of the Lieutenant-Governor and for the 
requisite orders as to notification in the official gazette 
when sanction has been accorded to the proposals. How 
great is the care bestowed on this important work may 
be judged from the fact that the settlement pro- 
posals for the Mandalay district, in which operations were 
begun in 1890, were only sanctioned at the very close 
of December, 1896 ; and before sanction had been 
accorded the whole matter had been twice submitted by 
the Chief Commissioner to the Government of India, 
once in the form of a minute by Sir Alexander Macken- 
zie, and again in the shape of a note by Sir Frederic 
Fryer. And when finally sanctioned, the rates of assess- 
ments were only approved for a term of five years in 
place of the usual fifteen years for which the settlement 
is generally fixed. 

In this case of the Mandalay district, however, special 
conditions and circumstances obtained. It was the first 



district coming under settlement in the new province ; 
and it was the first time in the history of the land-revenue 
settlement that what might be called a precarious tract of 
country had to be dealt with, where the rainfall is ordi- 
narily small and capricious, and where, except in a 
comparatively limited area under irrigation, a remunera- 
tive paddy crop could only be reckoned on once every 
two or three years. And yet so strong is the hold of 
custom on the Burmese cultivator that he prefers persist- 
ing in the effort to grow paddy rather than change to the 
cultivation of other cereals, for which the climate and the 
physical conditions of the soil are really much better 
adapted, and for which a fair market demand exists. 
Save in the alluvial tracts and the lands'under permanent 
irrigation, the condition of agriculture throughout the 
Mandalay district was therefore at the time of the recent 
settlement little better than chaotic and uncertain. The 
average size of the holdings was extremely small, ranging 
from about three to five acres only, and in consequence 
of this the mass of the peasantry found themselves forced 
to supplement their earnings from agriculture by other 
occupations. Thus, in the vicinity of Mandalay, the 
cultivators would in bad years readily abandon their 
fields for work of any description, such as earth-work on 
roads or embankments, cartage, grass-cutting, and 

The care and consideration given to the first settle- 
ment operations in the Mandalay and the Kyaukse dis- 
tricts were necessitated by the fact that the Government 
recognized the land-revenue settlement to be at the time 
a matter of vital and permanent importance to the people 
of Upper Burma. The general standard of living had, 
of course, to be carefully considered. This not only 
varies greatly from year to year, but also fluctuates from 
week to week, being highest just after the harvest has 
been reaped and garnered. On the whole, however, it 
is below the average standard throughout the settled 
tracts in Lower Burma. In 1891-92, when several dis- 
tricts in Upper Burma suffered from scarcity of food 
owing to insufficient rainfall, the standard of living in the 
poorer townships of the Mandalay district fell to a very 



low level indeed. There was no actual starvation, for a 
district with so many resources as Mandalay could 
hardly sink to anything like complete destitution, but the 
effects of a succession of poor harvests were nevertheless 
distinctly noticeable. In the rural parts of the Lamaing 
and Amarapura townships luxuries had to be eschewed, 
silk clothes being dispensed with, and but little betel or 
tobacco being consumed ; while in the poorer tracts the 
peasantry were driven to live on the very margin of sub- 
sistence. The rice for food was eked out by adding one- 
fourth to one-half of millet ; and to this change of fare the 
chief objectors were the Pongyi, or monastic body of 
religious mendicants wearing the yellow robe of poverty 
and professing contempt for all the material comforts of 
life. The people themselves bore their trials well ; and 
the mixture of millet and rice was in itself palatable 
enough. By 1893 the standard of living had again risen, 
though not to the fair degree of comfort which is reported 
to have obtained while King Mindon held court in 
Mandalay, the time to which the high level record is 
ascribed. During Thibaw's reign fluctuations took place 
from year to year according to the rainfall and the 
harvest. The revenue settlement and the irrigation 
works now in course of construction should, however, 
raise the general standard considerably above what it 
has ever been. 

Reference has already been made to the transfer of the 
land, particularly in the deltaic tracts of Lower Burma, 
from the hands of agriculturists to those of traders and 
money-lenders, which may be looked upon as practically 
synonymous terms, for these men never cultivate the 
land themselves. Within the richer tracts opened up and 
brought within easy reach of large towns by railway and 
river- steamers, a standard of luxury previously unknown 
has gradually been asserting itself. Though still as 
frugal as formerly in his food, the Burmese cultivator is 
now more lavish in his expenditure on clothes and 
household comforts. Besides his cheap cotton garments 
for ordinary work-a-day use, he invariably has one or 
more holiday suits, always of silk and often of rich pattern 
and costly texture, while his wife and children are 



decked with gold ornaments on holidays and festivals. 
In place of a bamboo house roofed with thatch-grass, 
he laudably endeavours to build a substantial wooden 
house, and often roofs it with corrugated iron ; but he 
makes the mistake of generally becoming tainted with a 
tendency towards humble imitation of English manners 
and customs, in which respect he is merely following the 
lead of his more advanced relatives in the towns. 
Though the peasant has not yet taken to wearing socks 
or stockings and patent leather shoes, like most of the 
up-to-date Burmese in Rangoon and the other great trad- 
ing centres, yet he apparently feels impelled to acquire 
tables, chairs, bedsteads, lamps, glasses, and the like, for 
the adornment of his house. Curiously enough, this 
tendency is nowhere more noticeable than among the 
Pongyi or religious body, the ultra-conservative devotees 
of Buddhism vowed to a life of poverty and extreme 
simplicity, whose monasteries are often filled with articles 
of luxury, the use of which was formerly quite unknown 
to the Burmese. 

Though as a rule happy, contented, and fairly well off 
on the whole, the Burmese agriculturist can seldom be 
said to be in anything like affluent circumstances. As 
soon as he sells the surplus of his crop he spends his 
money freely, either in works of religious merit for his 
own personal benefit in the next life, or else in jewellery, 
clothes, amusements, or gambling. He rarely forms any 
reserve of savings to fall back upon when temporarily 
embarrassed, and usually has nothing in the shape of 
capital except his land, his house, and his plough- cattle. 
The rest of his possessions, such as agricultural imple- 
ments and household chattels, have little or no market 
value. Very frequently the best evidence of the pros- 
perity of the Burmese cultivator is to be found in the 
number of cattle he possesses ; for he can always hire 
them out at substantially profitable rates during the 
ploughing season, if he does not require them for his 
own land. The Karens who have settled on the plains 
in the Bassein and Thongwa districts are of a much more 
saving and careful disposition. This is no doubt mainly 
owing to their being mosdy converts from spirit- worship 



to Christianity, neither of which involves the expenditure 
of large sums on works of religious merit so essential to 
the equanimity of the Buddhist Burmese, Besides 
lavish outlay on priests, monasteries, pagodas, shrines, etc., 
and on dress, the prosperous Burmese agriculturist will 
generally soon dissipate his ready money in theatrical 
performances in the open air during the period immedi- 
ately following the garnering of the grain between 
December and February. At this season boats and 
carts conveying troupes of performers are everywhere to 
be met travelling from village to village. They obtain 
as much as 300 to 400 rupees (^20 to ^26f) for two or 
three nights' entertainment at villages or hamlets, which 
at a cursory glance might be described as poverty- 
stricken collections of huts. Throughout the country 
generally the appearance of a village is no criterion of its 
wealth, squalid houses being found as frequently in the 
richer as in the poorer tracts. 

Thus, even when otherwise really well off, the Bur- 
mese agriculturist suffers from a chronic want of ready 
money, occasioned partly by his hereditary improvidence, 
vanity, and love of amusement, and partly by his 
religious impulses. When in want of cash to pay 
labourers, to meet the capitation- tax during the rainy 
season, or to purchase commodities like salt, salted fish, 
tobacco, and so forth, he finds little difficulty in borrow- 
ing from traders, brokers, or professional money-lenders 
{Chetties). Interest is usually at the rate of four to five per 
cent, per mensem, although in some localities loans 
can be obtained at a lower rate consequent on the 
facilities for borrowing offered by a larger number of 
traders. The lowest rate of interest, about three per 
cent, per mensem, is obtainable on deposit of gold 
ornaments exceeding in value the amount lent. In such 
a case the creditor can easily obtain an additional profit 
by lending out the pledged gold ornaments at a remu- 
nerative rate on holidays and festivals. Cattle disease, 
inducing exceptional mortality, is often the direct cause 
of indebtedness, as well as extravagance and gambling ; 
but the great facility with which loans can be obtained, 
even although at an exorbitant rate of interest, is in 



itself, next to the hereditary and characteristic improvi- 
dence of the Burmese, the chief cause of indebtedness. 

These inordinately high rates of interest even induce 
speculators to borrow from capitalists on pledge of gold 
at thirty to forty per cent, for the purpose of lending out 
to cultivators on mortgage of land. Self-denial and 
thrift finding no place in the Burmese character, if the 
cultivator wish for money he will pay an exorbitant 
rate of interest for it. As money can be laid out in 
many ways with certainty of excellent profit, there is 
practically no competition among small money-lending 
capitalists ; and so long as this state of affairs exists the 
usual percentage is little likely to confine itself within any- 
thing like reasonable limits. The rates of interest 
sanctioned by the Laws of Manii, the ancient statute law, 
were one per cent, for poor agriculturists, two per cent, for 
cultivators in general, four per cent, for those who were 
well to do, and five per cent, for traders in any large way 
of business. 

The average amount of indebtedness among the 
majority of agriculturists who are unable to make both 
ends meet during any given year varies from about lOO 
to 150 rupees {;C^3 to ;^io). Though not in itself a 
large sum, this is just sufficient to hamper them consider- 
ably, through the high rate of interest current. Where 
the land is fertile, the cultivator can usually easily 
extricate himself from his difficulties, because a good 
harvest enables him to discharge the liabilities incurred 
during the previous year. If he cannot manage to free 
himself in one year, two or three good harvests should 
see him again unencumbered. But when the soil is 
poor, or when there is heavy mortality among cattle, 
matters become complicated. The land then hardly 
yields enough to support the cultivator and his family, 
and there is no surplus crop available for the clearance 
of debt. Renewal of the old loan, and perhaps even the 
additional burden of a new advance, weigh him down 
more heavily in the following year, and he gradually falls 
into a chronic state of indebtedness from which he can 
only escape by giving up his property to his creditors, or 
by abandoning his lands and home and making a moon- 



light flitting to break fresh ground in another part of the 
country in the hope of there being free from his creditors. 
But cases of absolute insolvency are fortunately, how- 
ever, of exceptional occurrence. In this respect Burma 
happily differs essentially from the more thickly popu- 
lated portions of India. Such cases of hopeless in- 
debtedness as do occur, and mostly for comparatively 
small amounts, are generally due to illness of the 
cultivator and his family, loss of cattle through disease, 
and gambling, or to a combination of these or similar 

As yet the Burmese agriculturists have practically no 
legal protection against the usury of money-lenders. 
Excessive as the customary sixty per cent, rate of interest 
is, the money-lenders not infrequently make their 
creditors sign extortionate bonds acknowledging the 
receipt of sums amounting even to three or four times 
the money actually advanced, and the usurers thereupon 
proceed to register these documents under the Registra- 
tion Act. After the harvest the creditors generally 
obtain repayment as soon as the paddy is threshed, before 
the grain is removed from the threshingfloor, the rate per 
hundred baskets having been determined beforehand. 
Thus, the results of inquiries made about December or 
January invariably show a much smaller proportion of 
indebtedness than statistics collected before the harvest- 
ing and threshing of the paddy crop in these months. 
If the seizure of the crop in this way leaves little or no 
margin for the requirements of the cultivator, the 
creditors will often promise to lend money for the 
payment of the land-revenue demand and other ordinary 
expenditure. But when the time of collection comes, they 
refuse to fulfil their promises ; and the cultivator, having 
no crop to sell, either sinks deeper into debt or sees his 
land sold up to satisfy the rapacity of the money-lender. 
Owing to want of ready money, to loss of credit, and to 
the inconvenience of leaving their homes at harvest- 
time, the agriculturists generally refuse to apply to the 
civil courts for redress ; for they believe that the false 
and extortionate bonds signed by them must have, in 
consequence of registration by the usurers, received the 



formal sanction of Government, so that they cannot be 
disputed or cancelled. Moreover, such a procedure 
would hardly be consistent with Burmese notions, for the 
Burmese peasant has hereditary and intuitive knowledge 
of the enormous difficulty of proving a negative. It 
would seem much easier and far more reasonable to him 
to bring a dozen or a score of witnesses to prove that he 
repaid the money with interest to his creditor, than to 
attempt to show that he had actually received only one- 
fourth or one-third of the amount for which the money- 
lender forced him, under pressure of want of money, to 
sign a receipt or to make his mark by way of acknow- 

In the interests of the Burmese peasantry it is much 
to be regretted that the Registration Act in Lower 
Burma should have been extended to the interior of 
districts where the rural population is exceedingly 
ignorant and quite incapable of understanding the objects 
of such an enactment. Its effects have certainly been to 
enable unscrupulous men of the trading and money- 
lending class to enforce fraudulent contracts against their 
more ignorant neighbours and other borrowers. 

To obviate fraud in this way and to enable the 
cultivators to obtain advances for specific purposes, as, 
for example, the purchase of plough cattle after loss 
through epidemic disease, agricultural advances are 
obtainable from Government at a low rate of interest. 
But much more than that is required to place matters on 
a sound footing. There can be no doubt that the 
greatest blessing which could be bestowed at present 
upon the Burmese peasantry is, in addition to the 
Tenancy Bill now under consideration, a well managed 
Land Mortgage Bank duly approved by Government, and 
owned and conducted by Englishmen, from which loans 
could be obtained by approved applicants at a fair rate 
of interest considering the circumstances of the country. 
In all the settled districts, where each man's holding and 
the nature of the tenure are at once clearly recorded in 
the Land Record Registers, a business of this sort could 
easily and profitably be worked on a sound and secure 
basis. Operations would of course have to be first of all 



confined to selected portions of the districts immediately 
in communication with the centres of the rice export 
trade, for it is only in such favoured localities that the 
requisite security could be found justifying business on a 
large scale at a moderate rate of interest. Conducted by 
men thoroughly conversant with the Burmese language 
and character, personally known and trusted by the 
Burmese, and personally acquainted with the rural 
conditions of the districts forming their particular sphere 
of operations, such a Land Bank would prove the greatest 
and most undisguised blessing to agriculturists while 
giving good returns to the shareholders. It probably 
would, within the course of a few years, become a potent 
factor in connection with regulating the market price of 
paddy, in which respect it might also perhaps contribute 
in no inconsiderable degree towards obviating fluctua- 
tions in the onward progress and development of the 

During the settlement of the Bassein and Tharrawaddy 
districts it was found that, although tenancies were 
numerous, there was hardly what could be called a 
tenant class in contradistinction to an absentee landlord 
class ; but there were distinct indications that such 
classes had already begun to form themselves even 
seventeen or eighteen years ago. In most cases, how- 
ever, the tenant of one holding was generally the owner 
of adjacent land, and was not a man of separate class or 
different social standing from his landlord. Tenants of 
this sort usually held only for one year, and paid a rent 
of ten per cent, of the gross produce of the fields in 
addition to the land revenue. When yearly tenancies 
of this sort ran on for several years, the tenants were 
generally relatives of the landowners, sons paying rent to 
their parents, or one heir paying rent to the co-sharers of 
the unpartitioned estate. Temporary illness, the death 
of his wife, a lawsuit, or any circumstance of this 
description is considered by the Burmese quite a 
sufficient reason for reposing from his labours for a year, 
provided he can find any neighbouring cultivator who 
will work his fields upon payment of the land-revenue 
demand and giving him a share of the grain harvested. 



Some such system would be almost certain to spring up 
wherever the owners of the soil are peasant proprietors : 
but it is probably found to a greater extent in Burma 
than elsewhere, owing to the peculiar disposition and 
characteristics of the people. The growth of a landlord 
class consisting of traders and money-lenders must of 
course naturally be slow in a rich but thinly populated 
country, where the still large amount of cultivable waste 
enables tenants to be very independent. 

In Upper Burma tenants of ancestral land {Bobdbamg) 
usually pay a rent of one-fourth of the gross produce, 
which corresponds with the nominal land revenue fixed 
for State land i^Ayddaw). But as under Burmese rule 
the measurement of the private areas generally ap- 
proached nearer to accuracy than in the case of the 
royal lands, the rent of leased tracts was consequently 
in effect higher than the revenue on Ayddaw. No 
provision was made against partial failure of the crop, 
and the tenant had just to take the risk of this. In the 
majority of cases, however, a reasonable remission was 
made during bad years. The water-rate for irrigated 
tracts was usually paid by the landlord out of the rent, 
unless a special arrangement had been made about this 
matter. As the relations between the owner of large 
ancestral lands and his tenants were very much the same 
as between the State and the tenant of royal lands, the 
agriculturist's preference for Bdbdbaing or Ayddaw hold- 
ings was mainly dependent on his relations with the 
landowner in the one case, or with the village headman 
and assessors in the other. Up to the present date 
there is litde or no rack-renting with regard to ancestral 
lands ; for the tenant can always move to State land, of 
which an abundance is still available for cultivation. 
Hence there is as yet no urgent necessity for protecting 
the tenant against his landlord, although matters are 
inevitably tending in this direction. 

Land is seldom sold outright in Upper Burma. The 
usual conditions of mortgage are that the borrower shall 
not disturb the mortgagee's possession for a period of 
three to five years, after the expiration of which term the 
mortgage may be redeemed. The price fixed for re- 



demption is usually the same as the amount originally 
advanced, the usufruct of the land being considered as 
the equivalent of interest. Mortgages of this sort are 
occasionally converted into bona fide sales by payment of 
a small additional sum of money. In the vast majority 
of cases the mortgagee is an agriculturist. When this is 
not the case, the mortgagor usually works his own hold- 
ing as the tenant of the former. Interest is, however, 
paid when the mortgage is merely an advance of money 
without the ownership and possession being temporarily 
pledged ; and here again, as in Lower Burma, a poor 
man without substantial credit generally has to pay 
about sixty per cent, while the man with a good holding 
can pledge his possession temporarily, paying merely 
rent as a tenant but nothing in the shape of interest on 
the loan. Within the last eight or nine years the custom 
of recording these transactions on stamped paper has 
gradually sprung up. Having occasionally been taken 
in through not understanding the status of such local 
tenures, Chetties of the Indian money-lending class are 
now very cautious about accepting mortgages of land in 
the vicinity of Mandalay. 

While it is as yet difficult to form any clear idea as to 
the extent to which land has been, and is being, trans- 
ferred by sale or mortgage from the persons with whom 
the revenue settlement was made to others, yet it appears 
certain that in the neighbourhood of the large trading 
centres such transfers are frequent, and that the area of 
land cultivated by persons in the condition of tenants 
paying rent to middlemen is already extensive. And it 
is rapidly increasing. Bengalis in Akyab, Chetties and 
Burmese brokers and money-lenders in the neighbour- 
hood of Rangoon, and Chetties and Chinamen in Moul- 
mein, are to a certain extent displacing the original 
landowners. Considering the facilities for borrowing, 
and the improvidence of the Burmese people, this result, 
though much to be regretted, is perhaps inevitable. 

The incidence of the total demand for land revenue, 
capitation tax, and export duty on rice taken together 
amounts merely to between three and four rupees (45. to 
5 J. 4d.) per acre. Land cultivated with paddy pays, on the 



average, less than two rupees (25. 2>d.) direct revenue per 
acre, and the incidence of the export duty on sea-borne 
rice comes to a little over one rupee (i^. 4^.) for the 
produce from the same. This duty, being paid only 
when there is a surplus for export, varies on the total 
cultivated area with the gross quantity exported. The 
rice crop in Burma is certainly as abundant as that 
produced from the best irrigated land in Northern India; 
yet for this the cultivator will pay his landlord a rent of 
at least between five and six rupees {6s. Sd. to Ss.) per 
acre, although he has to bring from the canals of the Ir- 
rigation Department, at a further cost of six rupees {Ss.) 
an acre, the water which the Burmese agriculturist obtains 
gratuitously from the rain-clouds driven inland from the 
sea by the south-west monsoon winds. Rain-water is 
also more fertilizing and stimulating than water of irriga- 

The Government land-revenue demand in Burma is 
therefore nothing more than a light rate, which does not 
amount even to one-half of the actual rental value of the 
land. As the cultivator has transferable rights, it would 
be unreasonable to expect that under such circumstances 
he would refrain from borrowing ; nor is it surprising 
that well-to-do neighbouring cultivators, as well as paddy- 
brokers, traders, and general money-lenders of the trading 
centres, are able and eager to acquire large areas of land 
which they can probably let to the former owner at a 
rent of six to eight rupees {Ss. to 10s. Sd.) or more per 
acre, while they have only to pay the Government land- 
revenue demand, amounting to less than one-third of 
that : for the capitation-tax and the export duty on rice 
do not affect the landowner. In point of fact, the land- 
revenue demand in the rich tracts of Lower Burma is 
extremely light; and, indeed, the financial loss thus 
voluntarily incurred by the State is hardly compensated 
by any permanent gain to the actual cultivator. 


Chapter XI 


THE cultivation of the land is by far the most im- 
portant industry in Burma. Less than twelve per 
cent, of the people can be classified as urban. ^ Nearly 
two-thirds of the total population are either directly or 
indirectly engaged in agriculture, or else are dependent 
for their livelihood on the occupations immediately con- 
nected with it ; and nearly one- third of the whole popu- 
lation is classifiable under the heading of land occupants 
cultivating, including dependents. The overwhelming 
predominance of the agricultural class may be gauged 
from the fact that the category next in importance, which 
comprises fishermen, grain-dealers, fruit and vegetable 
sellers, butchers, and a whole tribe of petty bazaar stall- 
keepers, distributed among about forty separate occu- 
pations concerned with the preparation and supply of 
food, amounts only to a little under ten per cent, of the 
population. The butchers comprised in this latter class 
are principally Chittagonians and other non- Burmese 
nationalities, as the slaughter of living animals for food 
is a deep offence against the Buddhist religion. Being 
a hunter or a fisherman, or being engaged in rearing 
silkworms and harvesting the cocoons, is hardly looked 
on as following a quite respectable calling ; but to breed 
and fatten cattle for the slaughter-house is a pursuit that 
no self-respecting and consistent Burmese would admit 
to be the occupation upon which he depends for his 
livelihood. He will gladly eat his bullock if it happen 
to die a natural death, and will even feast gloriously on 
the carcass of a dead elephant ; nor does he feel any 

1 The data given here and in the following chapter as to population 
and its distribution follow the census of 1891, as the results of that of 
1 90 1 are not yet available. 



compunction or inconsistency in partaking of fish, flesh, 
or fowl that has been caught and killed by another. He 
is not his brother's keeper, and his religious principles 
involve neither personally nor indirectly any responsibility 
for the sins of another. 

The rural population is distributed in villages having, 
on the average, forty-three houses, each occupied by 
seven souls, this proportion being remarkably equal both 
in Lower and Upper Burma. The total area under 
actual crop-cultivation throughout Burma in 1 899-1900 
was 10,556,104 acres, which is rather less than one- fifth 
above the acreage under corn crops alone in the United 
Kingdom. But there are still more than 24!- millions of 
acres of land suitable for permanent cultivation, which 
only await the advent of population by natural increase 
or by immigration from the congested areas in India. 
Nearly two-thirds of the cultivated area are situated in 
Lower Burma (6,857,898 acres), and of this total over 
ninety per cent, are under rice crops (6,277,678 acres); 
while less than fifty per cent, of the total area under 
crops in Upper Burma (3,698,206 acres) are devoted to 
rice cultivation (1,818,962 acres), rather less than one- 
third being under millets, maize, and pulses .(1,141,955 
acres), about one-seventh under sessamum and other 
seeds for the manufacture of oil for cooking purposes 
(527,825 acres), and between four and five per cent, 
under cotton (153,734 acres). Wheat is not cultivated 
in Lower Burma ; and, although the climate and soil are 
suitable, only 15,813 acres are as yet cropped with it on 
the plains of Upper Burma. Its cultivation has also 
been successfully introduced into the Shan States, where 
enormous stretches of good land could be made to 
produce wheat if any favourable market existed for its 

For the cultivation of the lands on the plains oxen and 
buffaloes are used, the former for ploughing the higher 
lands with light soils, and the latter for the heavy wet 
tracts and marshy lands. Throughout the greater por- 
tion of Upper Burma bulls and bullocks form the bulk 
of the plough-cattle ; but in all the central and deltaic 
tracts of Pegu, Martaban, and Tenasserim buffaloes, which 



here obtain splendid development, form a very large 
proportion of the agricultural stock. Massive, unwieldy, 
and slow, buffaloes are less suited than oxen for cartage 
purposes along roads, but they can be used on fairly level 
ground for dragging timber and supplementing the work 
of elephants, as well as for ploughing the fields. A pair 
of ordinary buffaloes in their prime is worth between 
150 and 200 rupees (^10 to ;^i3i) on the average. 
Fine, heavy, well-grown animals, however, run up to 
three to four hundred rupees (;^20 to ;^26f ), which is a 
far higher price than is ever paid for a yoke of bulls or 
bullocks, except for cart-racing purposes. 

Of the whole mature agricultural stock of Burma, 
aggregating, in 1900, nearly three million oxen and 
buffaloes fit for the plough, about one-fourth consists of 
buffaloes, and considerably over two-thirds of the total 
number of these are to be found in Lower Burma. As 
the returns of the Agricultural Department show about 
nine hundred thousand ploughs and harrows to be in use, 
this gives one such implement for every iif acres, and 
one yoke of cattle for every seven to eight acres, allowing 
for a small proportion of the transport required for the four 
hundred thousand carts in the country being withdrawn 
altogether from agricultural employment. The young 
immature stock is estimated at nearly a million and a 
quarter. With the exception of the cattle in the Akyab 
district, which are of a very inferior breed, and, being 
specially ill-cared for, contrast badly with those in other 
parts of Burma, the agricultural stock is decidedly good 
in quality.^ The buffaloes, which, like the elephant, form 








Cow Young 
Buff.iloes. Stock. 




Lower Burma . 
Upper Burma . 




231,588 594-034 
98,581 638,724 



Total . . . 




330,169 1,232,758 



Grand Total 


716,742 1,232,758 





rather a link with the pleistocene geological age than a 
characteristic type of the existing fauna, are constitution- 
ally much more delicate than might be expected in the 
case of such powerful and finely developed animals. 
They have comparatively little faculty of resisting disease, 
and can hardly be reckoned on for use throughout more 
than from three to four or five seasons on the average 
owing to the abnormally heavy percentage of mortality 
from epidemic diseases. Otherwise, a buffalo may be 
calculated to work for about fifteen years. This delicacy 
of constitution is also peculiarly characteristic of the 
larger and more powerful elephant. 

Burm.ese buffaloes are by no means of a gentle dis- 
position. In the deltoid tracts, where they attain their 
finest development, they are often suspicious and prone 
to attack the European even though unprovoked. This 
may probably be more due to fear than to natural savage- 
ness of disposition. The appearance of any unusual 
object, like a European riding on a pony across the fields 
in which they are grazing, will excite them, causing them 
to raise their nostrils, sniffing suspiciously, and to move 
towards the object of fear or dislike, gradually quicken- 
ing their pace as they approach. When once buffaloes 
begin to scent in this manner there is no way of obviat- 
ing the impending attack except by either riding away 
quickly or else charging the still hesitating herd and 
emitting a war-whoop, a manoeuvre that is usually suc- 
cessful. As a Burmese pony is fleeter of foot than a 
buffalo, one can in such cases easily escape with only the 
risk of a false step on the broken ground bringing the 
rider within reach of further inconvenience. Any little 
Burmese urchin near the buffaloes would, however, be 
easily able to restrain the animals from an attack, as 
they would then retain equanimity in the presence of 
the unknown object. At the same time they have a 
certain strain of innate savageness, which is even culti- 
vated in Tavoy and the other southern districts of 
Tenasserim in training the animals for buffalo fights. 

The oxen, though small, are hardy and active. They 
belong to the Zebu or humped class, having a large, soft, 
fleshy protuberance above the tips of the shoulder-blades. 



They are well-shaped, and have good clean limbs. 
When anything like well cared for, their short coats are 
sleek and glossy. In the Amherst and Thaton districts 
of Tenasserim selected pairs are trained to race in light 
carts, and can travel very rapidly over the rough roads. 
Few or no attempts are made to improve the breed by 
the selection of good sires, the breeding taking place 
promiscuously, as also in the case of buffaloes, while the 
cattle are pastured on the grazing grounds. The stock 
of oxen is largely recruited from the Southern Shan 
States and Siam, where the upland pastures are well 
suited for cattle-breeding. But the plains of Burma are 
very favourably adapted to the raising of cattle, if the 
people would only bestow attention on the matter. The 
supply of ponies is also mainly obtained from the Shan 
States, but elephants are bred in a state of semi-captivity 
in the eastern tracts of Tenasserim bordering on the 
Siam frontier. 

Notwithstanding their utility in general, their actual 
necessity for agricultural operations, and the fact of 
buffaloes and oxen being perhaps the fairest standard by 
which their owner's prosperity can be measured, the 
Burmese peasant bestows but little care on his cattle. 
The hire of a yoke of buffaloes for the season is usually 
at the rate of lOO to no baskets of paddy, though it is 
sometimes as much as 200 baskets, or nearly ten baskets 
an acre for the area they can plough ; and this is not 
very far short of the market value of an ordinary pair. 
But the hire is paid in grain on the threshing floor, and 
an actual purchase means ready money early in the year. 
All risks considered, the cultivator often prefers to hire 
the cattle rather than borrow money to purchase them 

From August till January, or between the ploughing 
and the threshing seasons, the cattle are driven out into 
the grazing grounds, generally at some distance from the 
village. Here they are nominally herded by a villager, 
who gets paid five baskets of paddy for each animal. 
After the crops have been cut in December, the herds 
are allowed to stray over the fields foraging for them- 
selves. When the wisps of soft rice straw and the 



herbage on the fields get dried up and burned off during 
the hot spring months, the cattle have often difficulty in 
picking up a sufficiency of food, unless there is scrub 
jungle in the vicinity of the village, or unless grazing 
grounds have been set apart for providing shade, shelter, 
and forage during the hottest months of the year. Such 
grazing grounds have been extensively formed during 
the last fifteen to seventeen years, and the work of selec- 
tion and demarcation is still going on. Originally it was 
endeavoured to provide for grazing in the fuel reserves, 
administered by the Forest Department, in the vicinity 
of the railway lines ; but such provision was found to be 
quite inadequate, and to be opposed in several ways to 
the interests of the peasantry. The grazing grounds now 
being formed for the benefit of villages in their vicinity 
are scattered as equally as possible over the different 
districts, and are under the direct control of the Deputy 
Commissioner. Unfortunately, in many of the richest 
parts of the province steps were not taken in this direc- 
tion till most of the tree- forest, which formed the original 
covering of the soil, had been denuded. Hence, with 
regard to some of the grazing grounds, it will take many 
years before a new grov/th of trees will spring up spon- 
taneously — for planting would be too expensive — and be 
capable of affording suitable shade and shelter during the 
hottest period of the year. When the " mango showers" 
in March, and the first rains in April and May cause a 
rank flush of coarse, unnutritious grasses, the poor 
hungry animals are allowed to gorge themselves with the 
succulent, toothsome food. The most the cultivator does 
in the dry season is to fire his fields and the surrounding 
jungle of Kaing or elephant grass, so as to bring out an 
early growth of young grass during April. 

This want of shade and shelter, combined with in- 
sufficiency of food and of water from February till May, 
is the main cause of the grievously heavy mortality 
among cattle in Burma. The death rate is indeed quite 
abnormally high. In Lower Burma alone the mortality 
was 69,424 during 1894-95, estimated at 22^ lacs of 
rupees in value (^150,000), and in the following year it 
was recorded as 116,794 : but this apparent enormous 



increase was stated to be partially due to improvements 
in the system of registering deaths of cattle, and not 
solely to the virulence of infectious diseases. 

The chief forms of cattle disease are dysentery, an- 
thrax, rinderpest, and foot-and-mouth disease ; while in 
the Akyab district in particular sheer debility, caused by 
absolute neglect of the poor animals, contributes very 
largely to the annual bill of mortality. During 1895-96 
and 1896-97 the loss of cattle in Akyab district alone 
amounted to over 60,000. When once anthrax effects a 
foothold in any locality, it is exceedingly difficult to pre- 
vent the recurrence of the disease during the following 
years, as the bacillus infects the grasses to the height of 
about two feet around the spots where carcases have 
rotted. To secure anything like immunity from infection 
it would therefore be necessary to cut fodder for cattle at 
the height of more than two feet above the ground : and 
it would indicate total misconception of the Burmese 
character to think of such trouble being habitually taken. 
Even elephants engaged in timber operations frequently 
succumb very rapidly to anthrax if they happen to graze 
near such infected spots. 

The Burmese have of course their own fantastic notions 
as to the causes of disease. Thus they say that cattle 
turn seriously ill when they happen to eat a sooth- 
sayer insect or praying mantis along with their food, and 
that ponies die if, while grazing, they happen to nibble 
grass upon which frogs' spawn has been deposited. 
The most common treatment given to cattle and ponies, 
when in bad condition from over-exposure, is to inject 
into the eye a mixture of betel-leaf, cloves, tobacco, and 
salt, which is specifically known as " eye-medicine." 

To try and curtail this big annual bill of cattle mortal- 
ity, which weighs heavily on agricultural prosperity and 
on the more rapid extension of permanent cultivation, 
Government in 1896 framed rules for the prevention of 
cattle disease, and enforced them for several districts in 
both Lower and Upper Burma. A Veterinary Depart- 
ment has been at work on a small scale since 1876, and 
sixty-four trained assistants were employed throughout 
the province during 1900. But a more hopeful sign 



reo-arding the practical utility of the department than can 
be represented by mere statistics is the fact that villagers 
are now beginning to apply for the services of veterinary 
assistants whenever cattle disease breaks out epidemically. 
The benefits which this small department can bring to 
the people would be hard to over estimate, since cattle 
murrain may cause the entire savings of the more thrifty 
to disappear in the course of a single season. 

The abnormally heavy mortality among stock would 
no doubt be very considerably lessened if the people 
could be induced to take more care of their cattle. 
Allowed to forage for themselves during the scorching 
months of the dry season, and so poorly nourished that 
their strength becomes reduced before the coarse fresh 
grasses spring up on the advent of the early rains, the 
cattle blown out with large quantities of new grass 
during May, and out of condition in every respect, are 
put to the plough in June and worked heavily for several 
hours a day. When not yoked to the plough they are 
turned out to graze, without shelter being afforded from 
the rain or dry ground being assured to them for lying 
upon. Immersed knee-deep and often more in mud and 
water, they soon fall into a condition little capable of 
resisting diseases of a febrile or dysenteric nature. Large 
numbers of oxen die off from these causes, but the 
buffaloes are less liable to be affected by exposure to 
damp and immersion in water. 

Many portions of the Pegu and Hanthawaddy districts 
are almost treeless tracts of which the parts not actually 
under cultivation are overgrown by coarse elephant grass 
[Kaing : Saccharum spontaneum), twelve to fifteen feet 
in height, and with a stem about an inch and a quarter 
across, which dries and hardens in the hot season. These 
tracts become arid except where watercourses traversing 
them here and there still retain some water in their 
channels, while during the rainy season the whole of the 
plains are covered with water to such an extent that in 
July and August one can proceed in a bee-line across 
country in boats. Vast stretches of country are then 
often inundated for weeks at a time. Men and boys fish 
with rod and line in the ditches on each side of the Public 



Works roads, and large boats of forty or fifty tons 
capacity are poled along their ditches in places where 
during the hot weather no water is ever seen except what 
is drawn up from deep wells for domestic purposes. 

At midsummer the villages on the plains are inundated 
unless they happen to be built on rising ground, and pro- 
gress from house to house is by means of canoes. This 
is one of the main reasons why houses in Burma are 
always built on piles, like the ancient lake-dwellings of 
Switzerland. Here one frequently finds the buffaloes and 
oxen tied on small mounds raised above the level of the 
water, usually without any protection from the wind or 
rain. In the centre of the mound there may be a 
smouldering fire of damp wood, whose smoke helps to 
keep off the swarms of mosquitoes, but that is about all 
the protection afforded to them. In the Pantanav/ and 
Yandon townships of the Thongwa district, notorious for 
their plague of mosquitoes, the buffaloes are habitually 
placed at night in open sheds and protected by the smoke 
of fires, while the oxen are kept in closed sheds walled 
in with bamboo mats plastered with mud, within which 
fires are kept smouldering. The more careful cattle- 
owners even place their bullocks and cows under large 
bamboo frames covered with muslin to protect them from 
the fretful irritation caused by the myriads of mosquitoes. 
In parts of Thongwa liable to be flooded during July and 
August the cattle have, when the river is highest, to take 
refuge on ant-heaps, hummocks, and knolls in order to 
get above the floods. In places where standing ground 
of this sort is not available, they have sometimes to 
remain for days together in the water. 

Things are better now at Maiibin, the headquarters of 
the Thongwa district, since the island was embanked ; 
but twenty years ago it was, on account of the insect 
plague, the most horrible of places to have to reside in 
even temporarily. The Deputy Commissioner and the 
Superintendent of Police were the only two European 
officers then stationed there. To escape from the awful 
torments of mosquitoes, the former dined before sun- 
down in a framework of muslin mosquito-netting, and 
remained inside this room within a room till it was time 



to go to bed, there again to be protected in similar man- 
ner, as is usual all over Lower Burma ; while the latter, 
living in a wooden house built on piles like the ordinary- 
Burmese dwelling, had a fire of green wood lighted below 
his dining-room, the smoke from which came up through 
wide chinks between the floor planks and, filling the 
room, drove off large numbers of the mosquitoes that 
buzzed around. The Deputy Commissioner's pony had 
even to be protected by a framework of mosquito-netting 
to enable it to obtain sleep. These are no mere myths, 
but actual facts within my personal knowledge.^ Maiibin, 
so called from a tree {Sarcccepkalus Cadamba) was 
selected in 1874 as the chief station of a new district by 
Mr. (afterwards Sir Ashley) Eden : and it soon gained 
an unenviable reputation as " the Garden of Eden." 

Further north, in the Prome and Thayetmyo districts, 
and throughout the dry zone forming the central portion 
of Upper Burma beyond that, the climate is drier. There 

^ This perhaps seems like making a mountain of a mole-hill, or, at 
any rate, a great fuss about a mere flea-bite. But all of the European 
officers first stationed at Maubin became eccentric, and some even com- 
pletely unhinged in mind. Here, too, is the much earlier description 
given by Major Symes in his Embassy to Az'a, 1800, pp. 452, 453 — 

" We had now reached the place where in going up we had been so severely teized 
by mosquitos, and again felt their venomous influence ; they even assailed us in the 
daytime, and in such numbers that we were obliged to fortify our legs with boots, and 
put on thick gloves, whilst by continually flapping with an handkerchief we endeav- 
oured to defend our faces. But no sooner had darkness commenced, than these 
troublesome insects redoubled their attacks in such multitudes, of such a size, and so 
poisonous, that I am persuaded if an European with a delicate skin were to be ex- 
posed uncovered to their ravages for one night, it would nearly prove fatal ; even the 
Birman boatmen, whose skins are not easily penetrated, cannot repose within their 
action ; and my Bengal servants actually cried out in torment. I lay in boots with 
my clothes on, and a double napkin over my face, and even thus could procure no 

Some twenty years ago an artillery officer told me that when, under 
his charge, a draft on the way up to Thayetymo first halted for the 
night in the delta, the torment of mosquitoes was so bad that one of 
the men jumped overboard in frenzy and was drowned. On the 
following night, higher up the river, fireflies flitted about when it be- 
came dark, and the wit of the draft exclaimed : " Be jabers, here's the 
bloodthirsty villains following us with their lanterns now." Only a strong 
word will adequately express the torture which myriads of mosquitoes 
can cause : and that particutar word must vary in each several case 
according to the personal equation of the individual as to forcible 



the oxen thrive well, and are much healthier. It is too 
dry indeed for buffaloes, which are only to be found in 
the villaofes alonor the banks of the main rivers and their 

These climatic variations from constant annual rainfall 
exceeding 200 inches near the coast to a precarious tithe 
of that in the centre of the dry zone, the nature and 
extent of which have already been elsewhere referred to 
(chap. ix. p. 243), of course necessitate great differences 
both as to the modes of agriculture and the crops raised. 
As all the methods of cultivation are, however, simple 
enough to be classed as rather primitive, and as the im- 
plements used are much the same all over the country, 
there is no great variety in agricultural operations. The 
permanent cultivation is everywhere known as fields {Le), 
in contradistinction to the shifting cultivation, {Ya, or on 
hills Taungya) practised for one to three years on land 
cleared for the purpose and then abandoned and allowed 
to revert to jungle. Another class of temporary but 
more or less recurring cultivation [Kaing), principally of 
tobacco, tomatoes, chillies, and other garden produce, is 
that taking place on the rich and fertile banks of mud 
deposited along the inner bends of streams, which are 
planted up when the waters subside after the rainy season. 
But all garden produce of these and other varieties, and 
orchards of fruit trees grown on permanent holdings on 
the high ground are included within a specific term {C/yi7i) 
applied to all lands enclosed with bamboo fencing for 
such purposes. There are no hedges separating field 
from field, but merely small ridges of earth [Kazinyo) to 
retain water for cultivation. 

Throughout the whole of the moister parts of the pro- 
vince the agricultural season is the wet period of the 
south-west monsoon, which sets in towards the middle of 
May, and usually extends till November ; and the bulk of 
the crops consist of rice. In some parts of Lower Burma 
a hot-season crop {Mayin) is also grown with the assist- 
ance of irrigation during the spring months ; but this is 
not nearly so widespread a custom as in those districts of 
Upper Burma which have only a comparatively light or 
precarious rainfall. 



In the moist localities comprising the rice-producing 
tracts par excellence, the fields are ploughed in June or 
early in July, as soon as the thirsty, sun-baked, and 
deeply fissured soil has become so saturated and soaked 
with rain that a layer of water covers the surface of 
the field. In many localities, however, it is sometimes 
delayed from one cause or another until early in August, 
so that the ploughing may be taken to extend over about 
two months. The ridges [Kazlnyo) round each field are 
carefully repaired to prevent the off-flow of this surface- 
water, which is essential to the healthy development of 
the rice-plants. 

The first ceremony of all is to consult the village sooth- 
sayer (BMin Sayd) and ascertain from him the most auspi- 
cious day for the commencement of ploughing operations. 
For each individual every month has two very unlucky days 
on which it is dangerous for him to set forth on a journey 
or to undertake any new work. These the astrologers 
can divine from his horoscope, and it is inadvisable for 
him to break soil with the plough while these unlucky 
days are in the ascendant. Nor must land be ploughed 
upon the days when evil spirits lie beneath the earth, 
which can also be revealed by astrological calculations 
{Pyetkadein). To make up for these two unlucky days 
each month contains one gloriously auspicious "royal day" 
( Yelyazd) upon which it is most proper that the chief en- 
terprise of the year should be entered upon. If for any 
reason it be inconvenient to await this day of days, then 
at all events the phase of the moon must be awaited in 
which this lucky day is in the ascendant. 

Until within the last twenty or twenty-five years the 
implement used throughout the wet tracts near the coast 
for breaking up the soft rain-soaked soil was a primitive 
harrow ( Ttmdon or " plough- log") rather than a plough. It 
consists of a stout round pole or transverse bar, about 
seven to eight feet long, usually with seven broad 
tough wooden teeth made of Cutch wood, or Padauk for 
preference, fixed in at intervals of about nine or ten inches 
and long enough to stir up the surface soil to about the 
same depth in buffalo ploughs, and about two inches 
shorter in bullock ploughs. The former is used on heavy 



marshy land, the latter in lighter soils and on higher 
ground. A tough bow was bent over the top of this from 
near one end to the other, so as to form an arch against 
which the cultivator could lean when driving the bullocks 
or buffaloes, thus sparing himself the fatigue of wading 
through the oozy mud, while adding his own comparatively 
light weight towards rendering the work of the harrow 
more effective by weighing down the teeth into the soil. 
The two buffaloes or oxen are loosely attached to a long 
thin pole fixed in the centre of the "plough-log," being 
united by an easy yoke stretching across this and over 
their necks. The guiding is done by means of a thin 
rope attached to a hole made in the nostrils of the cattle. 
There being no metal work about it, the whole harrow 
could easily be made by a peasant in less than a day, 
without any assistance. In and around the central zone 
of precarious rainfall, where the constant annual struggle 
with nature naturally led to the use of better implements 
in preparing the soil for the reception of seed or plants, 
a primitive but fairly effective form of plough {Te) has 
long been in use for breaking up the soil before using 
the harrow. This has gradually been introduced into 
many parts of Lower Burma for turning the sod in the 
preliminary operations, without, however, driving out of 
general use the harrow with which alone the soil has been 
lightly and superficially worked from time immemorial. 
Another implement introduced from Upper Burma is a 
clod - breaker [Kyandon), consisting of a number of 
straight thin iron blades revolving on a common axis, 
sometimes used for the preliminary breaking up of the 
soil. The Te has a share consisting of a piece of iron 
raised in the middle with slightly curved edges, terminat- 
ing in a point, and fixed to a shaft. The simplicity of 
this plough may be imagined by the fact that the iron 
share only costs about a rupee (li'. 4^.) locally, while 
those taken down to Burma are sold at about two and a 
half rupees (35-. 4^^.). Efforts have been made by Gov- 
ernment to introduce a light kind of metal plough (the 
" Kaiser " plough), but in view of the force of hereditary 
custom and the enormous vis inertiae with which the 
Burmese can resist innovations not resulting directly in 



amusement, the introduction of improved agricultural 
implements and ot more advanced agricultural methods 
can only be expected to be very gradual. The Te is 
certainly an improvement for the first and second courses 
of ploughing in so far as it partially inverts the soil, 
in place of only scraping and stirring it up slightly like 
the Tundon or harrow. 

It would be of vast economic benefit and would give 
a great impetus to the more rapid extension of per- 
manent cultivation if the use of any light plough for the 
first breaking up of the soil could be made general, 
and if strong, light, simple harness could be used, such 
as is in common use for plough oxen throughout Upper 
Bavaria. This only costs about five shillings a set, and 
could surely be locally reproduced more cheaply in Burma; 
while, yoked with it, a single buffalo or bullock, exerting 
its strength through the steady pressure applied to the 
padded band passing across its forehead just below the 
horns, would perform work more quickly and effectively 
than can at present be achieved by a pair of loosely 
yoked cattle. Specimens of these could very easily be 
obtained through the British Consul in Munich, and 
experiments in this direction are certainly worth a 

An auspicious day having been fixed for the com- 
mencement of operations, the plough is drawn across the 
field in parallel straight lines either from east to west or 
from north to south, according to the advice of the 
astrologer. When this has been done, the plough is 
then turned at right angles to its former track, and the 
whole area again ploughed in parallel lines, thus throwing 
it into small squares {Ldgwetcha) like those of a chess- 
board. Young buffaloes are then turned into the 
fields and driven up and down *' to stir up " the soil 
{HmwHhi) till it becomes worked into a mass of soft 
mud. In the Amherst and Tavoy districts, where the 
wet season sets in early with heavy rainfall, it is no 
uncommon sight about the beginning of June to see 
twelve or fifteen buffaloes being thus driven in a line 
up and down the fields. After this the land is again 
ploughed twice diagonally (Daimgdan) to the original 



lines, and buffaloes are once more turned into the field 
to stir up the mud. Again the plough is drawn across 
the field still more slantingly (Ki^^?^«^), and the young 
buffaloes turned in to liquefy the soil and obtain a 
smooth surface of mud on the water- sodden field. If 
the cultivator has no young buffaloes to stir up the mud, 
ploughing is again performed at still another angle 
(Ndnsatm^) before the ploughing operations are con- 
sidered to be completed. 

There are thus eight complete courses (Sat) of plough- 
ing for each field, four being in given directions, and the 
other four at right angles thereto, every operation 
comprising two courses or Sat, having each its own 
technical name. When young buffaloes are turned in to 
assist in preparing the soil only six Sat are performed ; 
but otherwise the whole eight are usually carried out. 
In low-lying tracts, however, it often happens that only 
four Sat are ploughed. Sometimes even less trouble 
than that is taken in very wet tracts, while on rather 
drier land as many as ten or twelve courses are 
adopted. Working with the customary Lower Burma 
plough, the Ttmdon or harrow, two Sat or courses at 
right angles to each other can easily be accomplished 
over an acre during one forenoon's work lasting for 
about five to six hours. The preparation of the soil 
consequently claims a total of about four days' work per 
acre of the holding cultivated ; but intervals are allowed 
between each two courses to kill off the weeds by 
immersion. Sometimes after the fourth or the sixth 
ploughing, when much water is standing on the field, 
this is drained off after the weeds have been killed 
and before the remaining courses of ploughing are 
carried out. 

Ploughing operations being completed, the seed is 
sown broadcast, after being steeped for two days in water 
and allowed to germinate, or else the field is planted up 
with paddy transplants raised in nurseries. Broadcast 
sowing between the middle of June and the middle of 
July is of course cheaper than transplanting, but the 
latter method gives a much larger crop. A basket of 
paddy sown broadcast over the fields is said to yield 



fifty to seventy baskets at the harvest, according to the 
soil ; whereas each basket sown in nurseries gives from 
eighty to a hundred bundles of transplants, and each 
bundle will yield one basket of paddy. 

Simultaneously with the ploughing a few fields are 
prepared as nurseries {Pyogin) for the paddy plants. 
Without any knowledge of vegetable physiology, the 
Burmese cultivator knows by experience that the medium 
class of land, neither the wettest nor the driest in his hold- 
ing, is that most suitable for selecting as nurseries for raising 
the healthiest and most vigorous transplants. These nur- 
series are ploughed first, and in some very few cases are 
even manured with cowdung, before the seed is sown 
broadcast thickly over the soil. In some parts the best 
sheaves harvested are kept for sowing in the following 
season, being stored in bamboo baskets coated and 
closed with mud and cowdung to keep it dry. When 
required, it is put into a large basket and covered with 
straw, which is kept wet till germination begins ; then 
it is sown broadcast. As a general rule, however, no 
attention whatever is given to the selection of good 
seed, the only precaution taken being to see that the 
seed grain is of one uniform kind, as there are many 
individual varieties of paddy which each require different 
periods of time for their development and ripening. 

Transplanting usually takes place in July or August, 
by which time the whole of the ploughing opera- 
tions are at an end and the young paddy plants in 
th(; nurseries have grown to about a foot or eighteen 
inches i!i height. When rainfall is late in coming in 
sufficient quantity, when the first planting is destroyed 
by inundations in August, or when agricultural opera- 
tions cannot be taken in hand till after the floods subside, 
transplanting is continued during September, and some- 
times even into October ; but fields planted so near to 
the end of the rainy season seldom yield a good crop. 

When wanted for transplanting, the young plants are 
pulled in wisps out of the soft wet mud and tied 
together in bundles [Pyolei) containing about 1,300 
plants each, which are carried away on bamboo poles 
and distributed over the fields to be planted up. Here 




they are inserted with the right hand into the soft mud 
at distances of about a foot apart, two or three plants 
being inserted each time in the soil. Roughly speaking, 
it may be estimated that about 100,000 paddy plants 
are required for planting up each acre, and that these 
are put in at a foot apart (43.560 wisps per acre). As 
this work is continued from earl)- morning until evening 
with an inter\'al for a meal, t.t: about ten hours' actual 
work, as it takes hve women nearly a whole day to 
plant an acre, and as the planting hire is a basket 
of paddy a day with the morning meal thrown in. the 
cost ot planting an acre with hired labour costs about 
hve baskets of paddy. Transplanting is usually done 
by the wife and children of the cultivator, assisted 
perhaps by neighbours, or else by hired hands ; for it 
would really be too much to expect the cultix-ator 
himself to incur the fatigue o( constantly bending down 
to dibble in the young plants. As holdings are small, 
there is only a ver\' slight proportion of the population 
which can be classified as regular farm labourers : but 
field-workers, crop-watchers, and reapers, who are hired 
by the job, number close upon 700,000 

For some time after being transplanted the young paddy 
wilts, turning yellow and sickly in appearance. With 
abundance of water, however, it gradually recovers and 
assumes a fine, healthy, deep-green colour. When wilting 
appears to be due to insufficiency of water, any neigh- 
bouring ditch is dammed up and the water scooped into 
the field with a big shovel made of bamboo matting. 
Little or nothing is done in the way of weeding. Rank 
vegetation is often allowed to grow up with the paddy 
to the prejudice of the future crop. The most that is 
done in this direction is to hack down with a long bill 
the high grass that rises above the water, till the paddy 
sown broadcast comes up. In all such important matters 
as selection of seed, manurinof of soil, and weeding- the 
crop, the Burmese cultivator is exceedingly negligent 
and apathetic, whereas such Karen and Shan as have 
left the hills to settle on the plains are much more 
diligent cultivators, ploughing their fields carefully and 
taking great trouble to keep the crops clear oi weeds. 



Although for long essentially hill tribes, and dependent 
entirely on shifting cultivation {Taungya), the Karen 
have come down in fairly large numbers to found 
villages and engage in permanent cultivation in the 
various districts abutting on the hilly ranges. The 
original, or at any rate very early, inhabitants of many 
portions of the delta, they had first to retreat before the 
Peguans and were completely driven into the hills by 
subsequent Burmese incursions. Now, however, they 
are distinguishable by language into the two main 
branches Pwo or Taking Karen and Sgaw or Burmese 
Karen. Both are good cultivators. As the former 
select their clearings in heavy tree jungle, they obtain 
the most fertile land ; but they are often compelled to 
part with it later on, owing to their unfortunate pro- 
pensity for drinking and gambling. Nominally they 
are Buddhists, but in reality they are very superstitious, 
and chiefly worship spirits to whom they make offerings 
at different seasons of the year. The Sgaw Karen, 
though less fond of heavy work in clearing their holdings, 
are more intelligent and enterprising than the Pwo. 
Most of the Sgaw tribe have been converted to Christ- 
ianity by American Baptist or Roman Catholic mission- 
aries. Their villages are generally well laid out, their 
houses spacious and substantial, and the cultivators 
themselves thrifty and careful. 

The Taking Karen make offerings of fowls and 
liquor to the spirit of the field at the time of ploughing, 
and again when the paddy has been planted out. These 
offerings are continued for three years in the case of new 
land, when the spirit is supposed to be propitiated and 
willing to watch over the crops. When the threshing 
ground is being prepared, offerings of eggs are made 
during the first year, of fowls in the second, and of pigs- 
in the third year, to secure the continuous goodwill of 
the spirit. Though only deemed essential for three 
years, it is considered politic to make the offerings every 
year ; and the practice even finds much favour in the 
eyes of the Burmese cultivator. The festivals during 
which these spirit-offerings are made usually last for 
three days, throughout which no food can be carried 



out of the cultivator's house nor any guest allowed to 
depart therefrom. 

They have also many superstitious ideas as to the 
shape of their fields. They object to their land touching 
that of any cultivator living in a different village, even 
though he be one of their own race ; and unploughed 
fallow strips are left to prevent such holdings touching 
each other. They likewise object to the field of a 
neighbour forming an acute angle with their own land. 
In a small field such a projecting piece is left untilled, 
but if the field be large a plough's breadth of land 
is left between the two holdings to avert the evil that 
might otherwise ensue. Not altogether so unreasonably, 
he also objects to his holding being situated between 
those of near relatives, such as father, uncle, brother or 
sister, son or daughter, and nephew or niece, an objection 
which is shared by the Burmese, and, even more reason- 
ably still, applied to houses in towns with regard to the 
nearest degrees of relatives. 

Another of their curious customs is the payment ot 
Ashaung or compensation for certain acts supposed to 
be productive of evil consequences. If any cultivator 
or his cattle cross fields on which an offering to the 
spirits is deposited, he has to pay Ashaung to the owner 
of the field. For various other acts which would not 
appear objectionable to an ordinary individual, but which 
fall under something like the Taboo of the Maoris, this 
sort of compensation or fine has to be paid. Thus there 
is an Ashaung for happening to let a knife or bill drop 
in another man's house, or for descending from his house 
without touching the last step of the ladder. The 
compensation is usually only of some such trifling amount 
as a fowl or four annas (6^.), but it is paid without 
demur even by Christian Karen or Burmese who may 
profess not to believe in the evil influence of the act. 
The heaviest Ashaung is demanded when a cart happens 
to touch a house or a heap of paddy. Then it varies 
from five to thirty rupees (65. M. to £2) in amount, being 
supposed to be equivalent to the value of the house 
or of the paddy. The evil influence thus roused can 
be dispelled if the cart-driver will allow the owner of 

321. Y 


the house to pour water over his cart ; but the man at 
fault is hardly ever bold enough to face the unknown 
possibilities which might lurk behind so mystic a cere- 
mony, and almost invariably prefers to pay a fine. 

Most Burmese cultivators, and the unconverted Sgaw 
Karen, have similar superstitious ideas with regard to 
the shape of their fields. They also believe implicitly 
in the evil influence of a cart colliding against the posts 
or other portion of a house, but they affect disbelief 
in most of the other kinds of Ashaung. Fines for 
careless driving were even prescribed in the Laws of 
Manu. If the cart struck the posts of the steps, or of 
the landing near the steps, the posts were merely to be 
replaced ; but if any of the eight chief posts of the main 
portions of the house were to be driven against, new 
posts were to be put in and three tickals of silver 
forfeited " to promote the flow of the pure waters of 
friendship." The propitiation was the same in the case 
of driving against the steps, because the steps are a 
material part of the house. " But if the owner of the 
house shall throw water on the cart, nothing shall be 
paid as forfeit." If cartmen driving at night in a walled 
royal city ran against a house, they were to suffer the 
infliction of forty stripes with a rattan in addition to 
punishment as above. Such was the ancient statute law 
of the Burmese. 

After transplanting, little more is done until the grain 
is in ear, when the fields are watched by the cultivator or 
by his children, or else by hired hands, who sit on raised 
platforms in the fields and drive away the flocks of 
sparrows, green parrots, and other birds that feed on the 
tender crop. Occasionally one sees conventional scare- 
crows made of a bamboo cross covered with rags to 
impersonate a human being, but the most usual method 
is for children to fire small mud-balls, like diminutive 
marbles, from a pellet-bow into the flight of birds. And 
there^ is naturally a good deal of shouting in the fields at 
this time of the year. 

A very ingenious method of scaring birds from the 
crop is to be seen in the Tau7igva or shifting cultivation 
of the Karen and other hill tribes. Surrounded by the 



tree forest in which the clearing is made for the year, 
these patches of temporary paddy land are liable to be 
preyed upon to a very injurious extent by enormous 
swarms of green parrots. While the grain is ripening 
the cultivator usually resides on his clearing in a small 
hut raised high enough above the ground to be secure 
from night attacks of tigers, which infest most of the 
thick jungles. To scare birds effectually, and to accom- 
plish this desirable object with the minimum of effort, 
but the maximum of effect and of conservation of 
energy, the wily Karen constructs a system of thin cane 
lines, like telephone wires, from his hut as a central 
point and radiating in all directions towards the limits of 
his clearance. These thin wire-like canes are loosely 
supported on long bamboos stuck into the ground, and a 
kick with the foot or a tap with a stick instantly sends 
them swaying and jangling for some time, and throwing 
off scintillating flashes of reflected sunlight from the 
glossy surface " smooth with nature's varnish." This 
simple and ingenious method is a most effective means 
of scaring away the parrots, which are not very timid 

The manner in which the Karen selects the patch of 
forest to be cleared is peculiar and interesting. During 
the month of January or early in February each culti- 
vator prospects and fixes on what seems a suitable 
locality, two or three cultivators usually selecting their 
patches together in small areas of about three to five 
acres per man. Before commencing to clear the heavy 
tree-jungle, the traditional oracle has to be consulted to 
find out if the spirits of the air, the earth, and the 
forest approve the cultivation of the spot selected for 
the particular year. The oracle for this is the Kyetyotd 
or " puncture of the fowl's bone," as it consists in trying 
to pierce the larger end of the thigh-bone of a fowl with 
a small sharpened piece of bamboo. If the piece of 
bamboo can be inserted and driven home into the bone, 
the spirits approve the clearance and cultivation, but 
otherwise the patch selected must remain uncleared, and 
fresh areas sought till the approval of the spirits has 
been won. As the fowl is sacrificed and boiled before 



the oracle is consulted, it practically rests with the 
operator to decide whether he is personally in favour of 
the patch selected being cleared or not. This oracle is 
consulted with much secrecy. Although for very many 
years my work in the forests lay among the Karen and 
was specially connected with their Taungya cultivation, 
yet I never was encouraged to ask if I might be pre- 
sent at a consultation : nor have I ever heard of any 
brother officer being witness of the ceremony. Perhaps 
a D6, or a Tkw^tkauk who had "drunk blood" — the 
equivalent of the beer " Bruderschaft " of German stu- 
dents — might be allowed to be present without vitiating 
the solemn procedure. 

The area selected being approved of by the spirits, 
the trees and bamboo jungle are felled and left for a 
few weeks to dry. Towards the end of March or early 
in April this mass of inflammable matter is fired, and the 
operation repeated to make the clearance as effectual as 
is practicable. Thus richly manured, the rice sown at 
the advent of the rains yields a good return. 

On the Shan hills another effective form of scarecrow 
consists of a tailed windmill, which is set automatically 
by the breeze in such direction as will enable two 
wooden hammers to play upon a small hollow trough 
of wood like an inverted cattle bell. It makes a harsh, 
unpleasant noise, but is of course inoperative except 
when there is a certain amount of breeze, which, how- 
ever, seldom fails on the pleasant Shan uplands. 

Except as regards crop-watching, the cultivator has 
little or no call upon his time between the seasons of 
transplanting and harvesting. Those who have small 
holdings, or whose crops have been damaged by floods 
or destroyed by drought, occasionally cut fuel or bam- 
boos for sale, or catch fish for their own consumption. 
Those who are more fortunate, as often as not pass the 
time in gambling away what remains of their last year's 
gains ; but the really industrious and frugal can often 
earn thirty to sixty rupees {£2 to £^) by cartage. 

About the end of November in the earlier and drier 
tracks, and elsewhere in December, the harvest com- 
mences. The crop is cut with a sickle, bound in 



sheaves, and left for a few days to dry, before being 
brought to the threshing-floor on sledges or on carts. 
In the Talaing tracts of the delta before reaping com- 
mences an effigy of straw covered with a woman's gar- 
ments and bearing a pot of cooked rice is placed in a 
cart and driven round the fields to propitiate the 
Pomnaso Nat or "guardian spirit of the earth." The 
rice is then eaten by the village children, and the effigy 
is placed on the grain shed. 

The threshing- tloor {Kauktaliit) is generally made in 
the fields, or on the outskirts of the village in the case 
of cultivators whose lands are close by. The ground 
being smoothed off for a space of about twenty feet 
square or more, this is covered over with cow-dung and 
beaten to a hard surface, in the centre of which a stake 
is driven into the ground. The grain having been 
brought on sledges or carts to the threshing-floor and 
piled in a stack near it, the rows of sheaves are laid 
two or three deep, and with their heads together in 
circles round the central stake. Then cattle are driven 
round and round this to tread out the grain. Slowly 
the heavy buffaloes or the bullocks toil round the stake, 
pressing out the grain from the ear, and lazily lifting up 
a few straws which they chew as they perform their 
circuit. For the ancient law of the East, recorded by 
the Israelites for their own national guidance close upon 
thirty-five centuries ago (Deut. xxv. 4), still holds — even 
like this primitive method of threshing itself — by imme- 
morial custom the position of an unwritten law among 
the Burmese, " Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he 
treadeth out the corn." 

When the weary rounds of the cattle have been con- 
tinued to a sufficient extent, the grain is winnowed. 
The simplest process consists in one man throwing it up 
into the air from a large shallow tray of light bamboo 
mat-work, while five or six others stand around and fan 
away the chaff with similar trays before the grain falls to 
the ground. Another common method is to raise a 
platform of bamboos at a height of five or six feet above 
the ground, and to shoot the paddy into the air, the 
good grains falling on a sloping mat and settling in a 



heap while the chaff and straw dust are wafted away by 
the light breeze which usually springs up in the morning 
and towards evening. In some of the more advanced 
tracts of the delta the use of hand-winnowing machines 
{Hdt) of simple construction has during the last twenty 
years or so been gradually spreading ; for the Burmese 
cultivator does not object to any useful innovation which 
has the great advantage of reducing his personal labour 
while bringing material benefits at the same time. Any 
innovation which causes him individually more trouble 
is, however, a violation of the unwritten law of " custom," 
and a thing to be avoided arid opposed. The hand- 
winnowing machine consists of fans fixed to a revolving 
spindle, and enclosed in a light casing of wood. Poured 
in at a hopper on the top the heavy grain passes down 
between the revolving fans, driven swiftly by an outside 
handle, and comes out clean from a bell-shaped spout at 
the lower end of the machine, while the light grain and 
straw are blown out of the open ends. 

As soon as winnowed the paddy (Sabd) is ready for 
sale or for storing in the granary [Sabdgyi). But first 
of all the wages of any labourers employed in ploughing, 
transplanting, or reaping have to be measured out, for 
these are usually paid in kind. Debts to creditors are 
also generally paid on the threshing-floor at rates per 
lOO baskets as previously agreed on ; and only the sur- 
plus that then remains forms the cultivator's net return 
for the year. 

Out of this balance a sufficient quantity is laid aside 
for the food of the family and of next year's agricultural 
labourers, and is stored in small granaries consisting of 
a large round frame-work of woven bamboo bedaubed 
with a thick waterproof coating of cowdung and mud, 
the whole being raised on posts about three feet above 
the ground, and roofed in with thatch to protect it from 
wet. As a rule cultivators do not store up their sur- 
plus grain, but sell it to the paddy-broker on the thresh- 
ing-floor, and the latter makes his own arrangements for 
carting it to the river or the railway. When the culti- 
vator sells the paddy with delivery at a stream or a rail- 
way station, he can always, if he likes to take the trouble, 



earn about four to six rupees (55. 4^. to Ss.) per 100 
baskets over the rate obtainable on the threshing-floor. 

When the grain is being removed either for storage in 
the village or for transport to one of the great rice-con- 
suming centres, the fields gradually become cut up by 
small temporary cart-tracks, when once the ground is 
dry and hard enough to permit of sledging or cartage. 
The small ridges or embankments formed round the 
edge of each field to keep in the water during the period 
of growth are cut through to allow the easier passage of 
the cart, and gradually a more defined and better worn 
track becomes formed as the manifold trails converge 
on the village. It is thus, too, that in the purely rural 
districts cart-tracks are formed from village to village 
each dry season, which soon become entirely obliterated 
and impassable during the following rains. 

Throughout the ploughing and planting season, from 
June to October, the buffaloes are let loose near the 
fields during the day without any herdsman, and are 
allowed to wallow in what is called the grazing ground, 
even although it may be inundated with water ; but 
they are tied up at night near the cultivator's house. As 
every cultivator is employed on his fields in the day- 
time, he is supposed to watch his own interests, and to 
drive away cattle that stray near his land. It is conse- 
quently not customary among cultivators to pay compen- 
sation for damage done by cattle during the daytime, as 
the negligence is attributable to the landowner not driv- 
ing off the animals ; but damage done by night is com- 
pensated, as the fault lies with the cattle-owner in having 
neglected to tie up his beasts securely. The buffaloes 
are not sent to the grazing-ground, properly so called, 
till the ploughing is finished ; and they are left there 
until the reaping is over, when they are required to tread 
out the grain upon the threshing-floor. While at the 
grazing-ground, a good deal of promiscuous breeding 
takes place, though nothing is done systematically for 
its improvement by the selection of good sires. After 
the threshing the cattle are turned loose to graze in the 

In accordance with a generally recognized custom, 



cultivators of holdings surrounded by other fields have 
a temporary right of way through the holdings of their 
neighbours surrounding them. Until the end of the 
planting season a path must be left open of a width 
sufficient to allow a yoke of buffaloes to pass abreast 
along it. As the planting season approaches its end the 
strip is planted up, so that no material loss is caused 
to its owner. Great doubts have arisen as to the 
validity of this custom owing to decisions of civil courts ; 
but without some consideration being shown in such a 
matter it is difficult to see how the owners of interior 
fields could otherwise reach their holdings for cultural 
purposes. The want of any definite modus operandi in 
such cases is often the cause of frequent quarrels among 

During the dry season the clayey or stiff loamy soil 
becomes fissured with deep cracks through the sun's 
heat. Towards March, when the hot season is com- 
mencing, the tufts of paddy straw left standing to 
the height of about a foot or more are set fire to in 
accordance with immemorial custom, and the atmosphere 
becomes hazy, oppressive, and laden with tiny bits of 
charred straw which ascend and are carried long dis- 
tances with the currents of air. A good deal of this 
burned rice-straw finds its way into the cracks in the 
soil, and this, together with the casual droppings of the 
cattle grazed there after the harvest, constitutes all the 
manuring ever given to the fields. The burning of the 
straw seems, however, to be customary rather with a 
view to speeding the plough than to enriching the soil ; 
for, though soft and perishable, the wisps of straw do 
not decompose rapidly enough with the first showers of 
rain to prevent them catching in the teeth of the harrow 
and interfering with its progress when ploughing opera- 
tions are commenced. 

When the fields have been fired in this manner, the 
glare of heat reflected from them is intense, while the 
hot haze rising from the ground makes objects at any 
little distance appear as if they were quivering in the 
fierce tropical heat. Survey and levelling operations 
during March and April are consequently difficult ; for 



the numbers on the levelling staves look as if they were 
dancing about in never-ending restlessness. 

In low-lying lands, which form lakes during the rainy 
season till the water runs off at the beginning of the 
dry weather, the land is cultivated for a dry- weather 
crop (Mayin). The soil is ploughed about November, and 
the paddy reaped during March or April. The fields 
have no marginal bunds, only small spaces of un- 
ploughed land being left to separate them. 

Apart from the dry central zone of Upper Burma, 
where cultivation is either partially or solely dependent on 
water from irrigation channels, a hot- weather crop is also 
obtained in the tracts having only a comparatively small 
rainfall for Burma, by a simple temporary system of 
irrigation either through damming up a stream and 
diverting its flow, or else through the use of a self-acting 
water-wheel driven by a large, deep stream. These 
water-wheels (Yehdt, Yit) are only to be found in the 
Thayetmyo and Toungoo districts of Lower Burma, but 
they are not uncommon in the Katha district of Upper 
Burma, the former Shan State of Wuntho ; while their 
use extends across the Shan country into Siam. They 
seem thus to be a Shan method of cultivation only 
infrequently practised in Burma. Except the Y-like 
posts and the axle resting on them, these water-wheels 
are made entirely of bamboos, lashed with cane where 
joints have to be tied. Unless the current of water 
in the stream be strong enough, the wheel has to be 
worked by a man. It is about twelve feet in diameter, 
— though this, of course, varies with the height of the 
bank above the water-level, — and consists of a double 
row of bamboos, each about three feet long, a node 
forming the base and the top end being open. The open 
mouths of this double row of bamboo buckets point up- 
wards towards each other at an angle of about 40°. As 
the wheel is moved in the direction of the flow of water, 
the bamboo buckets descend empty into the stream, fill 
themselves, and are borne upwards on the other side. In 
tipping over again on reaching the top, the bamboos 
empty themselves of their contents, the water falling 
into a hollow palm-stem or wooden trough which feeds 



the irrigation channel that leads off the water to the 

The total area of the land irrigated in Lower Burma 
is extremely small, amounting only to 5,069 acres, or 
less than eight square miles ; whereas in Upper Burma 
the area irrigated extended in 1899- 1900 to 799,021 
acres, or 1,248 square miles. Over two-thirds of this 
latter total is irrigated from private canals, tanks, wells, 
and other sources ; but when once the Government 
canals are completed and in operation, the area under 
irrigation will become enormously increased {vide chap, 
ix. p. 246). 

Throughout the dry tracts with precarious rainfall in 
central Burma the methods of cultivating rice are in the 
main similar to those above described for the moister 
localities. From climatic causes, however, the varieties of 
rice grown are not only much more numerous, — numerous 
enough though they be even in Lower Burma, — but the 
range of different crops is also much greater. Black, 
red, green, white, and yellow kinds of paddy are sub- 
divided into long, short, round, rough, or smooth 
varieties, according to the peculiarities of the husk or 
the grain ; and each has its distinctive name. Of the 
other crops grown, millets, peas, sessamum, and cotton 
are the chief. 

Speaking broadly, three agricultural seasons may be 
distinguished in the central dry zone, but it should be 
borne in mind that they are all in ordinary years to a 
greater or less extent dependent on irrigation, while in 
years of abnormally light rainfall they are practically 
entirely dependent on such artificial water supply. The 
Kaukgyi, or " rice which takes long in growth," the 
south-west monsoon crop corresponding to the paddy 
grown throughout moist localities during the rainy 
season, is cultivated from June or July to December or 
January. The fields are then left fallow for about two 
months or more, before being utilized for the hot-weather 
crop of Kaukti, or "rice that soon ripens," which is 
harvested in June. The successful cultivation oi Kaukti 
depends on an uninterrupted flow of irrigation during the 
months of March, April, and May, and on early mon- 



soon rain in June. Where irrigation is not obtainable, 
dry crops of millet, peas, etc., are grown during the four 
to five months when the land is not required for the 
Katikgyi, the chief crop of the year. 

As in Lower Burma, the Mayfn or dry-season paddy is 
generally grown in swamps within the line of river floods 
subsiding in October and leaving bare the land near the 
marshes. When water is not available from the swamps 
it has to be obtained by irrigation from tanks or dammed- 
up streams, or by means of a water-lift. The approved 
method of cultivating Mayin is to give water frequently, 
but in small quantities. The hot sun of early spring 
is apt to make the plants run to straw, but this tendency 
can be checked by cutting off the water supply and 
leaving the base of the plant bare for a few days. 

The outturn of rice, even in the best irri^^ated 
tracts, is not so manifold as in the more fertile tracts of 
the Irrawaddy delta. For Katikgyi the average crop 
yielded varies from about thirty to sixty nine - gallon 
baskets per acre ; for Mayin it is from thirty to forty, 
and for Kaukti only about thirty baskets. That is to 
say, the hotter the season of the year and the lower the 
atmospheric humidity, the smaller is the outturn in grain 
yielded by the crop then in cultivation. And these 
smaller results, too, are only obtained with better agri- 
culture than is practised in the districts blessed with 
never- failing copious summer rainfall. Inverted first of 
all with a plough {Te\ broken up with a clod-crusher 
(Kyandon), worked with a harrow {Tundon), diligently 
weeded with hoes [Pauktii) and spades (Taywin\ and 
sometimes also manured with cowdung, burnt straw, 
and wood ashes, the soil is altogether poorer and less 
productive, even when abundant supplies of water are 
available, than the rich fertile alluvial deposits forming 
the lower portion of the Irrawaddy valley near the sea 
coast. There is a struggle with nature which is unknown 
to the careless cultivator of the richer tracts, which are 
not only endowed with greater productivity as to soil, 
but also enjoy more favourable climatic and physical 
conditions for the cultivation of rice. And in conse- 
quence of this struggle the agricultural methods of 



central Burma are better and more intensive than in 
the wet tracts. 

Without ever having heard of nitrogen or having 
been told that in its descent rain carries down from the 
atmosphere small supplies of nitrogen, oxygen, carbonic 
acid, and ammonia dissolved from chlorides, sulphates, 
and nitrates of sodium, calcium, and ammonium — without 
having any technical education in agriculture, or any 
knowledge of agricultural chemistry — the ignorant 
cultivator in the dry zone of Upper Burma knows, from 
his own observation, that rain-water is, measure for 
measure, more valuable than irrigation water, and that 
at certain stages of the growth of the paddy-plant rain- 
fall is particularly beneficial, namely, when the ear is first 
forming inside, and when it is on the point of bursting 
from its covering sheath. Throughout the whole 
country a proverb is current that " Tazaungmon 
(November) rain is worth one hundred thousand ticals 
of pure gold." When once exposed to the air, the ear 
does better without rain. He has also learned from 
experience that the more labour he expends in tillage of 
the soil, the larger will be its yield. The good effects of 
thorough ploughing, harrowing, and weeding are more 
prominently conspicuous than the advantages of manur- 

Before breaking up the land it has to be irrigated 
with about five inches of water, and as each double 
course of ploughing and cross-ploughing or harrowing 
takes place a similar additional supply of water has to 
be provided. All the lower-lying and favourably 
situated land is planted, while broadcast sowing is 
adopted in the case of land that is higher and more 
remote from the irrigation channels, as on these lands 
the season of growth is shortened by the later arrival of 
the water supply. 

When the transplants are set out in the fields, a 
dressing of about four or five inches of water is given 
to the soil, and subsequently flushes of about the same 
depth are given every seven to ten days as required. 
A clear sky, a hot sun, and a drying wind of course 
necessitate more frequent demands for irrigation by 



causing rapid evaporation of the water and stimulating 
transpiration in the plants. Sometimes, however, it is 
necessary to withhold water temporarily in order to 
check any tendency to run to straw, but this expedient 
has only to be adopted on the best classes of soil. 

In Kaukgyi crops the ear begins to form about sixteen 
to nineteen weeks after planting. A fortnight later it is 
clear of its protecting sheath ; and three weeks after that 
it is ripe. The last irrigation is given while the ear is 
forcing itself clear of its case, about twenty-five days 
before harvest, and after that the field is allowed to dry 
up gradually as the time for reaping approaches. 

The total quantity of water required for ploughing 
and harrowing five times in double course, and for 
watering once every eight to nine days during four and a 
half months of growth, — flushes of water being each 
time given to the depth of five inches, — amounts to 
between lOO and 105 inches. 

For the Kaukti or hot- weather crop nurseries are 
planted near the main irrigation channels or large tanks. 
These are at their lowest water-level during February 
and March, and remain low till they are filled up again 
from the second half of April onwards by the early 
rains falling on the hills forming the water catchment 
area. Transplanting takes place during March, or broad- 
cast sowing a little earlier. The great solar heat, 
the hot winds, and the low relative humidity of the 
intensely dry atmosphere during the fiercely hot months 
of April, May, and June, cause the Kazikti paddy crop 
to make large demands on the water supply. On the 
average an inch of water is required daily during the 
seventy days which elapse between transplanting and 
the final disuse of irrigation water ; and during the 
three to four months it occupies the soil, the total 
demand for water made by the crop amounts to about 
ninety inches. 

Taking the average rainfall in the precarious tracts as 
being twenty inches a year, distributed in about the 
ratio of twelve inches during the Kaukgyi and eight 
during the Kaukti season, those crops would appear to 
require about 1 14 and 98 inches of water, or an annual 



total of 212 inches for the land cultivated. About one- 
third of this being irrigation water supplied from 
December to the middle of May, there remain about 140 
inches of combined rainfall and irrigation water neces- 
sary for paddy cultivation during the south-west monsoon 
period, lasting from about the middle of May till the end 
of November. If the rainfall be deficient, the success 
of cultivation must mainly depend upon such shortage 
of water being met by supplies from irrigation canals. 
Allowing for the rapid evaporation caused by hot dry 
winds, and for the enhanced transpiration of the paddy 
plants induced by isolation, chese 140 inches of water 
just about represent the equivalent of the 90 to 120 
inches of rainfall which the south-west monsoon bestows 
gratuitously upon the fields in many of the most pro- 
ductive portions of Lower Burma. 

As in other parts of the country, various tracts have 
their own superstitions and ceremonies with regard to 
cultivation. Formerly the Kings of Burma performed, 
along with the Princes and Ministers, a ploughing cere- 
mony [Letun Mingala) in the month of Waso, or 
" beginning of Lent " (about June or July) in each year, 
as is still done by the Minister of Agriculture in Siam, 
and also in China. But the practice fell into abeyance 
during King Mindon's time, and was entirely discon- 
tinued after his death, for King Thibaw never had 
courage to leave his palace for any such ceremonies. 
The royal ploughing took place in a portion of the 
Ledawyd, or " royal fields," a little to the east of the city. 
Its object was to secure a favourable rainy season for the 

Around Mandalay, where transplanting from the 
nurseries into the fields is often delayed till late in 
August, owing to scarcity of rainfall and uncertainty as 
to irrigation being secure from the large neighbouring 
tanks or lakes, planting operations take place to the 
accompaniment of clarinet, gong, and cymbals. The 
cultivators can, or will, give no other explanation of this 
except merely to assert that it assists in making the 
subsequent harvest abundant ; but the idea of pro- 
pitiating or scaring away evil spirits seems very distinctly 



indicated in the din and clamour thus raised. Fre- 
quently, too, in accompaniment to this rude music, a 
woman sways to and fro in an excited, semi- frenzied 
state, being apparently worked up into this condition for 
the purpose of providing an asylum for the evil spirits, 
as once of yore in the case of the herd of swine. In 
other parts, the women adorn themselves with flowers 
and sing whilst planting the fields, and rough practical 
jokes are played upon any stray members of the male 
sex who may chance to come near them while thus 

A peculiar system, known as Kow Chow cultivation, is 
practised by the Kachins on the alluvial lands in the 
Mosit valley (Bhamo district) during every year 
following one in which the harvest has been bad. 
The tall elephant grass being cleared and fired, the roots 
are also cut out and burned, and the soil is roughly gone 
over with a small iron pick attached to a bamboo handle. 
With the pick in his right hand, and grain in his left, 
the cultivator stoops down and makes a series of rapid 
strokes in front of and to each side of him, the seed-strain 
being dropped into each hole as it is made. Advancing 
with short quick paces, he kicks up his legs at each step, 
much in the manner of a hen scratching in search of food, 
and keeps shrieking and yelling all the while. The out- 
turn from this method of cultivation is only about twenty 
to twenty-five baskets of paddy per acre, as compared 
with thirty to thirty-five commonly yielded there by the 
ordinary Taungya cultivation ; but the harvest is reaped 
within four months under Kow Chow, whereas five 
months are requisite before Taungya grain is ripe for 

On the whole, paddj^-crops enjoy comparative immunity 
from fungous diseases and insect enemies, though the 
latter sometimes cause considerable damage, particularly 
during the month preceding harvest, in seasons during 
which the growth of the crops is less vigorous than usual. 
Some of these insects, attacking either the root, the stalk, 
or the leaves of plants standing in deep water, can be 
got rid of by cutting through the marginal bunds and 
letting the water run off temporarily ; while others, later 



on, gnaw through the stalk or attack the ear and the 
grain. Small land-crabs also at times do a great deal of 
damage in the dry zone by nipping the paddy-stalks, as 
well as by burrowing through the small mounds dividing 
the fields and thus letting the water out. The great 
ally of the cultivator against the enemy is the crow, which 
hunts the crab and pecks a hole in his back. In some of 
the districts fringing the sea-coast myriads of other small 
crabs come up out of the sea, and spread over the land, 
destroying the seed-grain while it is germinating or the 
young plants which have sprouted from it. They infest 
the fields during June and July, before returning to the 
sea in August. The cultivators affect to believe that 
paddy sown in fields infested by these crabs will not 
germinate ; but in any case it is necessary to get rid of 
them by running or, if necessary, baling off the water 
from the fields and carefully repairing the marginal 
bunds. Wild elephants, wild pigs, and deer often do 
much damage in tracts abutting on forest jungle. Large 
herds of elephants sometimes devastate the cultivation 
and terrorize the villaofers to such an extent that rewards 
have to be offered by Government for their slaughter, 
even though there is an Elephant Act in force in Lower 
Burma for the special protection of these animals, so 
useful for timber-dragging and commissiariat transport 

The usual size of agricultural holdings varies con- 
siderably in different parts of the country and even in the 
different parts of the several districts forming each civil 
division. Thus the Revenue Settlement operations show 
that in some localities the average size of the holding 
does not exceed ten to fifteen acres, while in other places 
it varies from fifteen to twenty, and in others again from 
twenty to twenty-six acres. In that portion of the Tharra- 
waddy district which was setded during 1882-83 the 
average holding was found to be as low as 6J acres : but 
this is about the most thickly populated part of rural 
Burma, and the people do not look to agriculture alone 
as a means of livelihood. Taking the statistics for the 
whole province, the average holding would be about 
sixteen acres. 



Throughout most of the villages in the rural tracts 
men, women, and children all take part in the agricultural 
occupations, although in riverine villages whole families 
often support themselves from the retail sale of petty 
commodities and eatables. 

The average number of the cultivating family is five 
souls, consisting of the cultivator, his wife, and three 
children. To be barren is a reproach, and the laws of 
Manii lay down that a childless wife should be divorced. 
Only less despised is a woman who bears no more than 
one child. A woman who has two children enjoys a fair 
measure of respect, but it is not until she bears her third 
child that the Burmese matron is considered to be both 
praiseworthy as a wife and crowned with honour as a 
woman. As the birth customs are rather barbarous, this 
probably explains the fact that more than three children 
are seldom to be found in Burmese families. More are 
born, but owing to want of care and to bad food the 
mortality among children is high. 

Up to the age of six or seven years the every-day 
attire worn by small children consists only of a pair of 
silver anklets worth a few rupees or a silver amulet of 
nominal value hung round the neck by a piece of dirty 
string, but more commonly they are allowed to run 
absolutely stark naked. On ceremonial days, holidays, 
and festivals, however, they are gaily clad in tiny gar- 
ments like those worn by their parents. Thus attired, 
they for the time lose their natural gaiety, and look 
like preternaturally solemn little caricatures of grown- 
up people. During the rainy season the children 
play about in the rain and the water to such an extent 
that it seems marvellous how any of them escape death 
from fever or dysentery. Perhaps it is owing to such 
Spartan treatment that the Burmese are, on the whole, 
a remarkably sound and healthy race ; for the weaklings 
must either get killed off or else become strengthened in 
constitution. For the next six or seven years, up to about 
twelve years of age or so, the village children usually wear 
the cast-off clothes of their parents, cut down to suit them ; 
but as the whole costume only consists of a waist-cloth, 
a cotton jacket, and a handkerchief turban, the question 

337 2 


of every-day clothing is extremely simple. After 
performing his religious duty as a Mating Shin or 
novice at the village monastery, the young lad comes 
back to worldly life as one fitted to enter in due 
course upon the duties of manhood. Young men usually 
marry about the age of sixteen to eighteen, and then 
either go to reside for a time with their parents-in-law, or 
else found a new household and begin cultivation on their 
own account. The girls generally marry about the age 
of fourteen or sixteen. 

Formerly the custom universally adhered to was that 
the son-in-law should get broken in to the yoke of 
married life by residing for two or three years under the 
roof-tree of his father-in-law, working for him till the 
time arrived when, sanctioned by usage, he and his wife 
could build a house for themselves and the firstfruits of 
their marriage, and set up on their own account. The little 
expense which setting up house and beginning cultivation 
necessitated was easily covered by the share of the out- 
turn from the fields which was earned by the young man 
for the assistance given to his father-in-law. A gift of 
cattle, money, or land was also commonly made by the 
parents-in-law. Like many other old national customs, 
this ancient usage is now rapidly falling into desuetude, 
especially in the more civilized localities near the sea- 
board and the trading centres, where young couples are 
now apt to show a preference for assuming at once the 
responsibilities of a separate household and an indepen- 
dent existence. There is thus, as a rule, now only one 
male adult cultivator in each household ; and this explains 
the fact that the extensive employment of hired labour is 
necessitated wherever the holding exceeds about twelve 
to fifteen acres, this being the average area which the 
ordinary family is able to cultivate without assistance. 

The preparation of the soil with plough and harrow 
being completed by the agriculturist, his wife and children 
assist in the cultivation of the holding by taking the 
young paddy plants from the nursery and transplanting 
them in the fields in midsummer and by reaping and 
winnowing the grain five or six months later. 

In the towns the standard of living has risen, as might 



naturally be expected, and it is still rising ; but in the 
interior of the country the mode of living remains un- 
changed as yet in its extreme frugality so far as food is 
concerned. This consists simply of boiled rice, with 
salted, fresh, or dried fish, salt, sessamum-oil, chillies, 
onions, turmeric, boiled vegetables, and occasionally meat 
of some sort from elephant flesh down to smaller animals 
and fowls, by way of condiment. Even the secundines, 
or after-birth of cattle, are often eaten, and this is some- 
times referred to in disputes as proof of the ownership of 
the animal. The staple article of diet is boiled rice 
{Tamin), while all the rest of the meal is classed as curry 
or condiment (Hin), and " to eat rice " is the only expres- 
sion used with regard to a meal. The rice is produced on a 
man's own land, the vegetables are grown around his house 
or are simply wild herbs gathered in the jungle, and the 
fish are often caught by himself or his children ; so salt, 
salted fish, and curry stuff are all he needs to buy. His 
every-day clothes and those of his family are made of 
coarse cotton, and are generally woven by his wife or 
daughters. The only articles of apparel bought in the 
bazaar are, as a rule, the silk waist-cloth and the gaudy 
silk kerchief worn as a turban on high days and holidays. 
His house is built with posts and beams of common 
jungle-wood or bamboo, with plank or bamboo flooring 
and walls, and a thatch-grass roof. In most cases the 
cultivator builds it himself, and he generally cuts the 
grass ( Thekkd ; Imperatum cylindricum) and prepares 
the thatch and other materials for its repair from year to 
year. Except his cart and his strong, steel-faced, iron 
Dd or bill, without which the rural Burmese seldom goes 
abroad, his agricultural implements are simple and of 
little value, and are generally both made and kept in 
repair by himself. 

The Burmese agriculturist usually has two meals a day, 
the first about nine o'clock in the morning, and the other 
between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. At 
these times all the members of the household eat together, 
squatting on the floor around the large flat lacquered tray 
{Bydt) whereon the potful of freshly boiled, well steamed 
rice has been poured and the dishes of curry and 



condiments stand, from which they help themselves 
with their fingers. Rice is rarely eaten cold except when 
some member of the household is late in coming to the 
meal, or when travelling. For the use of those making a 
journey "rice-sticks" {Tamindok) are prepared by filling 
a piece of bamboo tightly with a specially glutinous and 
nutritious kind of rice, and then roasting it. When required 
for use, the woody-fibrous covering of bamboo is torn 
away to the length required, while the thin inner cuticle 
adheres to the cooked rice and gives the "rice-stick" the 
appearance of a thick white sausage. Milk is not used as 
an article of diet. This may perhaps in some measure 
account for the general excellence of the cattle under 
somewhat hard circumstances as to fodder during the hot 
months of the year. 

Thecleanrice is obtained from the paddy by huskingwith 
pestle and mortar made of hard wood and worked either 
by hand or foot. This task is invariably performed by 
the women of the household. The white rice thus pre- 
pared is preferred to that husked by machinery in the steam 
rice-mills of the European firms ; and in many villages 
the women carry on a large retail trade in white rice 
prepared in excess of their own household requirements. 
The amount of rice consumed is estimated at one nine- 
gallon basket a month for each male adult, one half 
basket for each woman, and one quarter basket for each 
child. As two baskets of paddy yield, when husked, 
one basket of rice, the average family consisting of five 
souls would, during the course of the year require from 
fifty-four to about seventy baskets of paddy according to 
the age of the children. 

The average actual cost of living to the agriculturist 
varies, of course, very considerably in different parts of 
the province. Concerning this, one might say that it 
varies in the inverse ratio of the distance of any given 
locality from any of the great trading centres, and that 
it probably amounts to 90 or 100 rupees (^6 to £6^) a 
year in the poorer rural tracts, and 125 to 150 rupees 
{£^^ to ;^io) in the richer districts, exclusive of the 
land-revenue demand. The average value of the paddy 
required for rice will be about forty to fifty rupees {£2% 



to £33) locally, though higher near the large towns ; 
salt and salted fish, curry stuffs, and oil, and tobacco and 
betel will cost from twenty to thirty rupees (^ij to 
£2). Clothing will usually range from about fifteen 
to fifty rupees (^i to £3^) ; while the capitation 
tax of five rupees {6s. Sd.) for each married adult 
male, religious offerings, and contingencies may be put 
down at about fifteen to twenty rupees (£1 to ;^ij). 
To provide for such subsistence, and for the payment of 
land revenue, the requisite minimum holding is one that 
will yield about three hundred baskets of paddy ; and, 
allowing for fallow, this will usually be an area of about 
nine or ten acres of land of average quality. For a twenty- 
acre holding the cost of living would probably be at 
the rate of a little over six rupees (Ss.) per acre, or about 
130 rupees {£S^) in all. Where the holding is less 
than about ten acres, as in some parts of the Tharra- 
waddy and the Prome districts, other means of livelihood, 
such as cartage, fuel-cutting, or petty trade, must be 
adopted to make both ends meet and to maintain the 
cultivator in a solvent and secure condition. 

On such a ten-acre holding the actual cost of cultiva- 
tion would be about five rupees (6^. Sd.) an acre, 
exclusive of any monetary estimate being made as to 
the wage-earning capacity of the cultivator and his 
family. The cost of cultivation depends chiefly on the 
amount of hired labour which the cultivator has to 
employ for his assistance. Some labourers are employed 
for the whole period of cultivation extending over about 
nine months from the commencement of ploughing 
operations to the storing of the grain. In this case two 
men are usually hired, the skilled hand who ploughs the 
land getting about 150 baskets of paddy, and the help, 
who cuts the long grass, weeds the fields, and herds the 
cattle during the ploughing season, getting 100 baskets, 
in addition to his food during the time of service. For 
labourers employed only for the four to five months 
which cover all ploughing and planting operations the 
hire is generally about too baskets for a skilled man and 
fifty to sixty for ordinary hands. For the reaping season, 
to the storage of the winnowed grain, the pay is usually 



fifty baskets of paddy. For daily labour the rate is a 
basket of paddy and the morning meal. Where the 
holdings are large and the cultivator has to hire both 
cattle and labour, the cost per acre may rise considerably 
above what it is where the holding is small and the 
whole of the work can be done without hiring cattle, 
ploughmen, planters, and reapers. 

All items of necessary expenditure being taken to- 
gether, the total cost of rice cultivation throughout Lower 
Burma varies from about twelve to twenty rupees (165. 
to /ii^) an acre, distributable between cost of living at 
six to eight rupees (85. to lOi". Sd.), cost of cultivation at 
five to nine rupees {6s. Sd. to 12^.), and land revenue at 
one to three rupees (i^. 4.d. to 4s.) per acre. Whatever 
outturn in paddy the land yields beyond the quantity 
required, calculated at current local rates for grain to 
cover such outlay, therefore represents the profit derived 
from cultivation. This surplus is soon converted into 
money and spent, the family expenditure easily becoming 
doubled in any year when the harvest has been good. 

In the dry zone of central Burma the standard of 
living is lower, while the actual cost is higher owing to 
the frequent scarcity of rice. It may perhaps be taken 
at about 120 rupees (;^8) as the bare cost of food and 
clothes, even though the usual size of the family is 
rather smaller than five souls. The average cost of 
cultivation is also higher than in Lower Burma, varying 
from about six to twelve rupees [Ss. to i6i'.) an acre; 
while the outturn, despite the more laborious and in- 
tensive methods of agriculture, falls far short of what is 
yielded by the fertile land of the delta. 

On the whole, the condition of the Burmese agricul- 
turist can fairly be considered prosperous and comfort- 
able. Taxes and land revenue are light ; markets for 
the disposal of produce are constant, and prices good ; 
while fresh land can still in most districts be obtained on 
easy terms by those wishing to increase their holdings. 
These favourable conditions, combined with the careless, 
happy-go-lucky, amusement-loving character of the 
people, make Burma anything but a distressful country. 
In comparison with any of the other provinces of the 



Indian Empire, with perhaps the sole exception of 
Assam, which resembles Burma in several important 
respects, the lot of the Burmese peasantry is one that 
may well be envied, and more especially by those 
crowded together in the congested districts of India. 
To assist them to tide over bad times loans are made 
to agriculturists on easy terms by Government. In this 
way nearly ;,^2 5,000 were lent in 1897-98, nearly the half 
of the advances being made in the eastern portion of 
the dry-zone districts in order to enable cultivators to 
purchase seed and replace the cattle which they had lost 
during the time of scarcity from deficient rainfall. These 
advantages are fully appreciated by the people. With 
one or two favourable seasons there should be no diffi- 
culty in paying off such advances. 

With regard to minor forms of cultivation of the land 
there are over four hundred thousand acres or six hundred 
and forty-four square miles of orchards and gardens, 
nearly nine-tenths of which are to be found in Lower 
Burma. The great bulk of these are for the cultiva- 
tion of plantains, while the betel-palm or areca-nut is 
largely grown at the base of hills where water can easily 
be procured for irrigation. The cultivation of succulent 
fruits consists chiefly of large pine-apple groves and 
orchards near Rangoon, and of custard-apple [Anona 
squamosa) plantations on the hills near Prome, which, 
seen from the deck of a river steamer, remind one of the 
vineyards on the Rhine. The other chief fruits are the 
Guava {Psidiwn guyava), the Durian {Durio Zideihinus) 
of Tavoy, which tastes like a fine custard spoiled by an 
after flavour of garlic, and the Mangosteen (Garcinia 
mangostana) of Mergui. Oranges of excellent quality 
are grown largely on the Karen and the Shan hills, and 
in Mandalay fine grapes for table use are produced in 
the gardens under the supervision of the French and 
Italian missionaries. Wild apricots, peaches, and quinces 
grow all over the Shan hills, and fruit culture can easily 
be carried on there extensively whenever the Shans may 
see that it will be profitable. 

Experimental gardens have been established by 
Government at Taunggyi and Maymyo on the Shan hills 



for the cultivation of European and selected Indian 
fruits, the demand for which would be large on the 
plains of Burma if good supplies could be sent down 
regularly at reasonable rates. The vegetables required 
by the European community are chiefly obtained from 
gardens cultivated near the large towns by Chinamen, 
but better and more varied supplies should soon become 
available now that the Shan hills have been brought into 
direct communication with Rangoon by railway. 


Chapter XII 


ONE ot the most characteristic sounds heard in the 
morning or towards evening in any Burmese 
village is the dull thud of the wooden pestle and mortar 
with which rice is cleaned for domestic consumption. 
The raw paddy is first of all husked by being ground in 
a hand-mill or quern [Kyeikson), consisting of a heavy, 
solid, round block of wood, cone-shaped and grooved at 
the top, and ending in a central pole. Fitting over the 
top of this is a hollowed block of wood, whose base, also 
grooved, fits upon the upright cone of the solid block. 
This upper portion is either moved to and fro horizont- 
ally by straight wooden handles at the sides of the upper 
movable block, or else kept turning continuously in one 
direction by means of an arm about seven or eight feet in 
length fixed to the top of it. For easy working this long 
arm is supported from above by a rope fixed near the end of 
the handle, so as always to maintain it at about the same 
level. The raw paddy is poured in at the top of the 
upper hollowed block and issues husked at the sides 
when it has been slightly crushed and rubbed by the play 
of the movable upper block upon the fixed lower one. 

The roughly husked paddy is then placed in a large 
wooden mortar, and is beaten with a heavy pestle, also 
made of wood, to complete the hulling process. The pestle 
may be worked by hand, or the mortar may be fixed in the 
ground and the pestle worked by foot through the leverage 
obtained by treading on the short arm of a horizontal 
wooden bar, also fixed near the ground at its fulcrum, to 
the long end of which the pestle is attached, like the head 
of a hammer. By treading with the foot on the short end 



of the lever the pestle is raised by the weight of the body ; 
and on the latter being removed, the pestle descends 
again heavily into the mortar filled with grain. 

For working the hand-mortar, hollowed out of a block 
of wood about two and a half feet high, pestles of about 
three feet long, narrowing in the centre to give a good 
hand-grip, but symmetrical above and below this for 
greater effectiveness, are raised up high with both hands 
and brought straight down with considerable force. Very 
frequently these hand-mortars are worked by two women, 
whose pestles alternately ascend and descend in rapid 
strokes like the piston-rods of a steam-engine. 

Rice-cleaning with the foot pestle fixed in the ground 
below the house is a comparatively easy sort of work, with 
which smoking and gossip can be combined ; but the use 
of the hand-quern means hard exercise, unlightened by 
frivolity. Stripped to the waist for freedom in using the 
arms, the rapid alternate rise and fall of the long wooden 
pestle means hard work for the young women. The 
rough-husking is sometimes, though not usually, done by 
men ; but the rice cleaning and pounding with the pestle 
is almost invariably women's work, quantities far in ex- 
cess of domestic requirements being often prepared for 
sale. There is a large trade in half cleaned rice (Londi) 
and white rice (^Sdn) along all lines of communication by 
road or river, the hand-cleaned rice being, as an article of 
food, much preferred to the white rice turned out by the 
steam-mills at seaports. 

The fact that no inconsiderable retail trade in hand- 
cleaned rice still maintains itself throughout the rural 
tracts,despitethecompetitionof machinery andof improved 
communications, is mainly due to the strong trading in- 
stincts with which Burmese women are endowed. As 
regards petty trade of all sorts, they are keen and eager, 
though, of course, they have a leaning to those branches 
in which their natural volubility of speech is likely to give 
them any advantage. The men are less gifted in this 
respect, although even with them the trading instinct is 
in some ways strangely apparent. For these, however, 
the trading operations must, as a rule, be untrammelled 
by personal exertion entailing bodily fatigue. That 



" time is money " is an aphorism which would be com- 
pletely devoid of sense to the Burmese mind, for all the 
hereditary ideas and personal notions and experiences on 
the subject have never trended in the direction of equat- 
ing or in any way correlating these two factors. Another 
consideration having great weight with the male 
Burmese is his love of independence, and his dislike 
of being tied down to perform specific duties at 
or within given times. It is therefore by no means 
uncommon to find him engage in trading opera- 
tions which, measured by their monetary gains, some- 
times appear hardly worth the time and trouble ex- 
pended upon them. For example, he will sift the sands 
in the beds of streams for gold-dust, even though this 
does not yield him half the amount he could easily earn 
by a comparatively light day's work as a labourer. But 
then he would not be his own master, and that makes all 
the difference to him. While engaged in these and vari- 
ous other operations with a like object he will often 
undergo much personal inconvenience and physical dis- 
comfort, provided always that it is not combined with 
really hard muscular exertion. To digging, in any shape 
or form, the Burman has a strong objection, the digging 
of a well being classed as one of the most laborious of 

There are not, and there never have been in Burma, 
any guilds connected with trade. Nor is there any re- 
striction, either legal or social, requiring given classes or 
individuals to pursue certain callings, trades, or profes- 
sions. There is absolute free will and free trade in this 
respect, although heredity and custom exert strong power 
in the matter. In all Burmese towns there were specific 
streets or quarters in which handicraftsmen following, 
almost invariably hereditarily, one branch of trade were 
located ; and even in the anglicized municipal towns this 
is still traceable in streets whose names, when translated, 
mean "potters' quarter," "blacksmiths' row," "carpen- 
ters' row," and the like. In similar manner there is 
•' China Street" and a " Shan quarter," wherever traders 
of these nationalities carry on their avocations in or near 
the chief towns. 



One of the great minor industries followed throughout 
the whole province is weaving. This is carried on entirely 
by the women-folk, and forms more particularly the work of 
the girls of the household. Seated at the loom under the 
house, there is good opportunity for looking around and 
gossiping with any passer-by, whilst lightly throwing the 
shuttle across the warp by hand and plying the treadle 
by foot to cross the strands and fix the thread of the 
woof. It is an occupation of the day time, after the rice 
has been husked and the morning meal has been pre- 
pared and partaken of. 

Under Burmese rule every household had its own 
loom, for nearly all articles of clothing were practically 
home-made, and the loom was the absolute and inalien- 
able property of the wife. The Laws of Manu even laid 
down that if a woman unreasonably insisted on separating 
from her husband without having any just cause of com- 
plaint against him, she was still entitled to take away, as 
her personal effects, a skirt, shawl, jacket, and loin-scarf 
as clothing, together with cloth woven and rolled up on 
the loom, the loom itself, the shuttles, and other imple- 
ments belonging to it. The loom is a very simple 
wooden framework, of comparatively slight monetary 
value. Flowers and petty offerings to the spirits are 
often hung on it in order to speed the shuttle. 

The introduction of cheap cotton and silk fabrics has 
dealt a blow to hand-weaving from which it can never 
recover, and weaving is no longer so profitable as it once 
was. It still may, however, be ranked as one of the 
chief occupations of women in the rural tracts. Both silk 
and cotton cloths are, though coarser in texture, more 
durable when home-made ; and the mother engaged in 
housework knows her daughter cannot be up to much 
mischief while the monotonous click-clack of the loom is 
heard without interruption from below the house. As a 
means of livelihood weaving now brings in but a mere 
pittance, so that it is still followed far more as a means of 
occupying spare time than for any actual profit derivable 
from it. 

Although silkworm breeding and cotton production 
form occupations among the Yabein class of the Burmese 



peasantry, yet raw silk and cotton yarn are largely im- 
ported for weaving. Thus, in 1S98-99, the imports of 
raw silk amounted in value to £i2T,,gio, in addition to 
;^268,677 worth of pure and mixed silk piece-goods, 
while cotton twist and yarn was imported to ^298,019 
in value, besides nearly ^740,672 worth of cotton piece- 
goods, and woollen goods to the extent of ^247,728 in 
value. And under some of these headings the imports 
had been larger in the previous year. 

The best silk- weavers are to be found at Amarapura, 
near Mandalay. There large numbers of people follow 
this occupation as their sole means of livelihood, whereas 
silk and cotton weaving throughout the province generally 
is carried on mostly by girls and women whilst unoccu- 
pied by other domestic duties. Rich, heavy, brocade- 
like silks are produced by Manipuris who have settled in 
the Henzada district of Lower Burma. Since the down- 
fall of the Court of Ava the trade in high-class silks has 
been in rather a depressed condition. Made to order, 
strong and very beautiful shot silks, consisting of warps 
of red, green, or yellow woofed with lighter tints, or with 
white, cost about sixteen rupees (^i i^. 4^'.) per piece 
measuring eight yards long and twenty-two inches broad. 
Silks woven in blue are not common, for they contrast 
badly with the dark olive Burmese complexion ; while 
certain definite mixtures, like light green and dark green, 
are never made on account of being unlucky. Pink, and 
especially rose-pink, is the predominating colour in silk 
manufactures, and next to it comes yellow. 

It is seldom, however, that only a single shuttle is 
used, as in the case of shot silks made to order for 
European tastes. To suit the native idea, fond of bright- 
ness and variety, the pieces woven arc usually bright with 
patterns of gay colours forming tartan-like checks or wavy 
zig-zaglinesof variouscoloursand shades. Someof the Lou 
Paso or short wavy-lined waistcloths worn by men, though 
only about fifteen feet long and two cubits in breadth, 
cost anything up to two or three hundred rupees {/^i^i 
to ^20) according to the intricacy of the pattern and the 
number of shuttles (Lon) used in making them. But the 
woman's waistcloth {Tamein\ a single piece composed of 



a narrow upper part, a broader lower portion, and a border 
of different patterns, measuring in all about four and a half 
feet long by a little over five in breadth, lends itself even 
more effectively to elaboration of wavy-lined patterns and 
deft shuttlework. 

The handweaving of artistic silks, as most of the 
many-shuttled cloths unquestionably are, is one of the 
first rural industries which feels the ebb and flow of 
agricultural prosperity. When times are hard the demand 
for rich and costly waistcloths for men and women at once 
falls while the cheaper and usually gaudier inferior import 
silks hold the market. A bumper harvest in Lower 
Burma will, however, as in 1896-97, bring back a revival 
of prosperity for the time being to the looms of Amarapura 
and give a fillip to home silk-weaving throughout the 

But fashion in women's dress is now becoming subject 
to change even in so conservative a country as Burma. 
There has been a marked tendency of late years, especi- 
ally in Lower Burma and more particularly in the vicinity 
of the seaport towns, towards the adoption of uniform 
colours such as maroon, brown, olive, and dark green for 
women's skirts or waistcloths, in place of the bright 
variegated Loit Tamein of stiff, heavy texture. Though 
neat and not unpleasing in effect, this change in fashion 
as regards the national costume for women seems only 
one of the many indications everywhere noticeable of the 
gradual decay of art-feeling which appears to be the 
inevitable outcome of contact with western civilization. 

A curious custom obtains among the Kachin hill 
tribes with regard to weaving the narrow dark blue 
cotton cloths which constitute one of their principal 
articles of dress. The women sit on the ground with 
their legs fully extended, the threads of the warp being 
fixed to a piece of bamboo held in position by their 
toes, while the other end is passed round their waists. 
The body itself thus forms the loom, the shuttles being 
plied by the hands across the warp extended between 
the loins and the feet. 

The decline of hand-weaving has naturally led to cur- 
tailment in the preparation and use of dye stuffs which 



abound throughout the province. The rural agricultural 
population still use barks and other simple forest products 
for dyeing their cotton of home growth, but to a certain 
extent the native vegetable dyes have been displaced by 
gaudy aniline dyes, the imports of chemical products and 
dye stuffs amounting to ^^30,404 in value during 1899- 
1900. Formerly, for the weaving of finer cloths, the raw 
floss-silk was bought locally, wound off, twisted into 
thread, boiled in soap and water, then dyed and reeled off 
again for use ; but now the silk yarns imported are 
coloured and ready for immediate use on the loom. 

The principal colours used in dyeing are red, yellow, 
and green of different shades, orange, and pale blue, 
while light blue, dark blue, brown, and black are also in 
use among the forest tribes and the Shans. White silk is 
largely used both in the piece for jackets, and for variety 
in check and other patterns. I f white thread is wanted, the 
thread is boiled in a lye of soap and water, or of earth 
containing potash, and then beaten clean on a slab of 
smooth wood or a flat stone. For red, the thread is 
dipped into boiling water in which powdered stick-lac has 
been thrown, or seeds of the tamarind tree, or chips of 
the wood of the Thitsi or black varnish tree {Melanorrhoea 
usitata). For yellow and orange, saffron (turmeric) and 
the wood of the Jack-tree {Artocarpus integrifolia) are 
largely used, the latter being exclusively employed for 
dyeing the robes of the monks or religious. A soft and 
very beautiful shade of reddish orange is obtained by 
rubbing the seeds of the Thidin or Panbin i^Bixa orellana) 
between the palms of the hand in cold water and then 
boiling it. This shrub used to be largely grown around 
houses for this specific purpose. Green is obtained by 
boiling yarn, already dyed yellow, in a decoction of the 
leaves and twigs of the Men we creeper i^Marsdenia 
tinctorid). Blues are obtained from wild indigo and 
similar plants, and black from decoctions of the berry of 
Diospyros mollis (Shan black), the drupes of Terminalia 
chebula, and other trees. When necessary for fixing the 
dyes, the chief mordants are alum, lime juice, tamarinds, 
and barks of trees or shrubs, including species of 
Terminalia, Eugenia, Kaiidelia. The printing of patterns 



on cotton, so common in Upper India, is almost unknown 
in Burma, and the cotton pieces woven are all thicker than 
what is known as the muslin type. 

The forest wealth of Burma includes vast quantities of 
dye-stuffs and tanning materials, which are at present 
waste products of the woodlands without marketable 
value. Of other waste products one may perhaps be de- 
serving of notice, as it is obtainable free of cost in con- 
siderable quantities at the sea-ports of Moulmein, Tavoy, 
and Mergui. This is the large, thick fibrous skin enclos- 
ing the dainty succulent seeds of the Mangosteen (Gar- 
cinia maitgostand). Enormous quantities of these husks 
are thrown away as refuse during the spring of each year ; 
and it seems at any rate worth ascertaining their com- 
mercial value for tanning by having them artificially dried 
and sent home for chemical analysis and for experimental 
tests of a practical nature. 

The total number of people engaged in the manufac- 
ture and conversion of textile fabrics of any description, 
including clothing, silk, cotton, flax, coir, etc., amounts 
(according to the last census figures available) only to 
about 375,000, or rather less than one-twentieth of the 
population ; and nearly three-fourths of those thus 
employed are of the female sex. The fact that, despite 
its far lower total population, about twice as many are 
classifiable in this category throughout Upper Burma as 
are to be found in Lower Burma, gives some idea of how 
much more rapidly as compared with the tracts far inland 
the people in the delta are abandoning what once ranked 
next to agriculture as the chief rural industry in the 
country, and are now supplying their requirements with 
the produce of the steam-power looms of Europe and 
Japan. From this movement, onward in a commercial 
sensebut downwardasto artistic effect andaesthetic feeling, 
there can be no retrogression ; for the time must gradu- 
ally come when the plying of this ancient handicraft will 
be a thing of the past, and the click of the weaver's 
hand-loom will only be heard in lonely hamlets amid the 
recesses of the jungle. 

The manufacture of pottery forms another rural in- 
dustry, which, though only giving employment to some 



forty thousand people, or less than one-half per cent, of 
the population, is very widely carried on. The women 
employed in this trade also outnumber the men following 
it, although not to any overwhelming extent. As might 
be expected from the nature of the articles manufactured, 
the bulk of which are thin pots or jars for holding water, 
cooking rice, and so forth, potters are to be found distri- 
buted over the whole of the plains of Burma, though 
most numerous, of course, in the more thickly populated 
tracts of the delta. In Upper Burma, Sagaing and 
Shwebo are the chief seats of the industry, while in 
Lower Burma, Bassein, at the western limit of the delta, 
has attained the highest position in this branch, and pro- 
duces large numbers of terra-cotta articles which may be 
classified as art pottery. These latter productions may, 
however, more appropriately be referred to along with 
wood-carving, lacquered articles, brass ware, and silver 
work in the chapter dealing with art and art- work. The 
manufacture of porcelain is unknown, only earthenware 
being made. 

The pottery manufactured for general use varies, of 
course, according to the specific purpose to which it is to be 
put. The chatties or pots for carrying water and boiling 
rice are only about one-sixth of an inch in thickness be- 
low, though thicker and stronger towards the grooved 
neck and wide open mouth. Consequently they are 
rather brittle, and become very much so after long usage. 
The clay used is carefully selected, and a little fine clean 
sand is added to strengthen the puddle. Similar pots for 
boiling brine and S/ia-chips in the manufacture of salt and 
cutch are much thicker and contain a greater proportion 
of sand. Still larger vessels of the ordinary jar shape are 
made for holding crude earth-oil and similar substances 
while in transit, and these are usually glazed with a mix- 
ture of rice-water and galena. Some of these, known as 
" Pegu jars," have a capacity up to over a hundred and 
fifty gallons. 

The puddled clay being placed on the potter's wheel, 
this is turned rapidly by a pedal while the pot is fashioned 
by hand. After being sun-dried, the pots are built up, 
mouth downwards, in the form of a cottage- shaped kiln 

353 A A 


covered in with bricks and mud, the kilns usually being 
about twenty feet or more in length by about twelve 
feet in breadth and ten feet high along the central line. 
During the process of firing large numbers of pots get 
cracked or broken owing to their thinness and fragility. 

Fisheries and fish-curing, both along the sea-coast and 
in inland tracts, afford employment to over sixty thousand 
adult males, and yield the means of livelihood to about 
one hundred and seventy thousand souls, or considerably 
over two per cent, of the total population ; while rents 
for fishery leases and licences for fishing bring in a 
revenue exceeding ;^ 150,000 a year. As salted fish 
forms, along with boiled rice, one of the chief articles of 
food among the Burmese, this rural industry continues 
to flourish and to yield a steadily increasing revenue 
even although the rapid spread of cultivation, the pro- 
tection of low lands by embankments, and the drainage 
of water-logged swamps tend to very materially reduce 
the area of the tracts worked as closed fisheries {In). 
The reduction in the area of the swamps is leading to 
improved methods of working the fisheries ; and as the 
price of salted fish is gradually rising with the prosperity 
and purchasing power of the population generally, this 
industry is on a very sound basis. As might of course 
be expected, the extent and value of the fishing industry 
is much greater throughout the delta and along the sea- 
coast of Lower Burma than in the inland tracts of Upper 
Burma. The chief seat of the industry is in the 
Thongwa and Bassein districts, where the income from 
the leased fisheries on individual streams and their 
tributaries sometimes amounts to between six and seven 
thousand pounds a year. 

A Fishery Act in Lower Burma and a corresponding 
Regulation for Upper Burma regulate the sale of fisheries 
and the license of nets and traps. Net fisheries, v/orked 
by license-holders in the principal rivers and along the 
sea-shore, are not nearly so valuable or so profitable as 
the closed fisheries (In), which are from time to time 
sold by auction for fixed periods of years. Fishery and 
fish-salting can only be carried on during the dry season 
of the year. For sea-fishery a funnel-shaped bamboo 



trap {Dajnin) secured by a rattan rope to a stake fixed 
in the mud, is chiefly used ; while for inland river 
and lake fisheries weirs [S^) are formed, thin bamboo 
screens ( Vin) being extended from side to side to keep 
back the fish while allowing the water to pass through. 
About September, towards the end of the rainy season, 
whilst the low-lying tracts of country are still swamped 
with water, the Inthugyi or lessee of an inland fishery 
erects a strong weir across the main stream of the fishery 
near its lower end in the case of a stream, or near its 
outlet if a lake. This weir usually consists of strong 
posts, firmly fixed in the mud and held in position by 
stout struts, to which longitudinal poles are lashed. 
Aofainst this solid framework the loose screens made 
with narrow strips of split bamboo, woven together with 
stout twisted cord, are lashed tightly so as to withstand 
the pressure of the current. The lower portions of 
the screens rest on the bottom of the creek or lake, 
while the upper part rises about three or four feet above 
the water-level in order to prevent the large fish jumping 
over and escaping. Towards the centre of the weir a 
long projecting trap, with a sloping floor of split bamboo, 
is fixed about the water-level, and as this forms the only 
exit downwards from the waters above, the fish are here 
easily caught and taken ashore. In some cases, how- 
ever, the weirs erected across the beds of streams consist 
of solid earthwork thrown in between retaining walls 
formed of stout posts and bamboo wickerwork. 

These weirs and screens are kept in position till 
nearly all the water has drained off, leaving a number of 
shallow pools simply swarming with fish which can be 
easily taken by net or thrown out by means of shovels 
made of split bamboos. Large inland ponds are often 
divided into smaller sections by low mounds at this 
stage, the water being baled out if necessary for the 
more effective capture of the fish. 

As the water gradually disappears through evapora- 
tion and percolation during the dry season the fish 
remaining uncaught become embedded in the mud and 
remain dormant there till the following rains flood the 
country again, while cattle are grazed on the now dry 



plain. It seems otherwise impossible to account for the 
undoubted fact that as soon as hollows, absolutely 
parched and dried up in the hot months from March to 
May, become filled with rain-water early in June they 
abound with fish which cannot have been brought by 
river- water into the swamps ; because these latter are 
often entirely cut off from direct communication with 
streams till the high flood season sets in during July 
and August. The spawn of very large numbers of such 
fish must also be laid on the mud or around the roots of 
coarse grasses, for the first heavy showers of rain call 
countless myriads of tiny fishlets into active existence. 

Certain of the lake fish of Burma, of somewhat perch- 
like general appearance, are endowed with locomotive 
powers by land, though probably incapable of exercising 
them over any distance exceeding a few hundred yards. 
Once, during the hot weather of 1884, whilst taking a 
morning ride round the Royal Lake, near Rangoon, I 
was astonished to see, at the extreme north-east end of 
the lake, a fish of about five or six inches in length 
crossing the road, then thick with fine pulverized dust, 
and making its way slowly and with exhausting efforts 
towards the water of the lake. Over the shoulder of the 
low hill which extends to the north-east at this part there 
is a shallow pond which becomes dried up during the 
hottest time of the year, and presumably this fish had 
instinctively made an effort to reach the big lake distant 
about two or three hundred yards down hill ; for in this 
case there was probably little or no mud, as in large 
swampy tracts, in which any natural process of embed- 
ding could take place for a fish of that size. The 
locomotive process could hardly be termed walking. 
The fish, lying on the ground, laboured to inflate 
strongly its swimming bladder, and as soon as this was 
accomplished it moved with something of a seal-like 
motion, combined with jumps and jerks, for about two or 
three feet before the inflation of the air-bladder gave out 
and re-inflation became necessary for further progress. 
Although perch-like in general appearance, such 
peregrinatory fish may possibly belong to the smooth- 
skinned cat-fishes [Siluroidae), which usually have their 



home in muddy surroundings and are characteristically 
long-lived after being taken out of water. ^ 

I should hardly venture to narrate this personal 
observation but for the fact that an exactly similar 
phenomenon was again noted during April, 1888, on the 
road which skirts the southern side of the lake to the 
west of Toungoo ; and as regards this latter occasion 
corroborative evidence to the fact can be given by those 
who were with me at the time — my wife, and Surgeon- 
Major G. B. Hickson, A. M.S., then in medical charge of 
the British troops at that station. Many other strange 
phenomena relative to wild life observed in the jungles 
could be given as having come under my own personal 
observation ; but some of them might appear so improb- 
able that, in the absence of unquestionable corroborative 
evidence, the description of certain wonderful provisions 
of nature will remain untold. 

The inland fisheries vary greatly in value, and in the 
manner of working them. Some are only small ponds or 
stream-channels, workable merely for a short time at the 
beginning of the dry season, whilst others are large lakes, 
creeks, and navigable channels, worked by complicated 
systems of weirs, screens, and nets. Many fisheries in 
the creeks of the delta, though small in area, are of 
specially high value from including the spots where fish 
collect in large numbers in burrows {Tti), whence they 
can be removed without difficulty. These burrows are 
supposed to be made first of all by eels ; but fish soon oust 
the latter from them, and then enlarge the originally 
small and tortuous excavations so as to suit their own 
peculiar requirements. Some of these burrows extend 
inland for a considerable distance from the bank of the 
streams, air-holes being opened at short intervals to the 
surface for supplies of fresh air. Profiting by this 
peculiarity of the fish, fishery lessees enlarge and 

^ The peregrinatory fish above referred to is not a known species of 
either of the genera Antennarius or Haliaitaea of the family of walking 
fishes {Pediculati). These are marine genera, both of which are found 
on the coast of Burma ; whereas the two cases here referred to con- 
cern a land fish, which could not by any possibility be migratory from 
or to the sea at any time of its existence. 



improve the burrows, though this sometimes leads to 
quarrels and litigation with the neighbouring cultivators, 
whose interests lie in a different direction. 

Heavy rainfall during October considerably affects the 
remunerativeness of many of the inland fisheries. Be- 
coming suddenly filled with water, the channels empty 
themselves a few days later with equal rapidity, the 
strong current carrying away many fish. But when the 
waters subside gradually and normally towards the close 
of the rainy season, the fish collect in shoals and seek 
the quiet waters as feeding and spawning grounds ; and 
then the catches are heavy and profitable. 

Agriculture and inland fisheries are in many respects 
antagonistic. And, of course, in the struggle that must 
ultimately ensue, the former is bound to maintain itself as 
the supreme interest ; while the latter will become con- 
fined more and more to perennial lakes, tidal creeks, and 
the sea-coast Earthen weirs and bamboo screens have 
a very injurious effect when thrown across the beds of 
streams. By checking the flow of the water they cause 
the bed of the stream to become silted up, and are thus, 
in low-lying tracts, often responsible for changes in the 
direction of the river-bed. This is more particularly the 
case in places like the plains lying to the west of the 
Sittang river (Pegu and Toungoo districts), where the 
silt-laden streams issuing from the hills gradually raise 
the level of their beds and of their banks until the latter 
are higher than the plains on either side of them. Any- 
thing which tends to favour rapid silting up of the bed of 
the stream is at the same time very likely to lead to 
diversion of the current and the flooding of cultivated 
tracts situated below where the outbreak occurs. 

A survey, made about twenty-five years ago, from north 
to south between the Sittang river and the Pegu Yoma 
range of hills showed that the highest land was invariably 
the banks of the large streams flowing eastwards in 
parallel lines from the hills to join the main river ; and 
some of these, the Yenwe in particular, were in the habit 
of every now and again becoming silted up, and over- 
flowing their banks in search of a new channel. Fallen 
trees forming snags, dead bamboos, reedy grasses, and 



other jungle rubbish were usually the natural causes of 
such deviations, but they were also often occasioned 
solely through the weirs erected for fishery purposes. 
The closure of timber-floating streams in this manner is 
prohibited under the forest rules, but this prohibition 
alone would not be effectual to prevent the silting up of 
the hill-fed fresh water streams flowing through the plains 
if it were not actively assisted by the drifting and float- 
ing operations of the departmental timber contractors. 
Everything in the shape of snags or rubbish is likely to 
cause silting ; and silting of the bed of the stream means 
obstructions, which must be removed before the floating 
and extraction of timber can be profitably effected. It 
is mainly owing to the regular and extensive floating 
operations of the Forest Department that the streams 
throughout the rich Tharrawaddy district of Lower 
Burma are kept free from silting, and from con- 
sequently overflowing their banks from time to time 
and doing much damage to rice-crops and agricultural 

The lower portion of the delta was formerly well 
wooded, the banks of the tidal creeks and rivers being 
lined with a deep fringe of trees which stretched back to 
where the forest had been broken into and cleared for 
agricultural occupation, temporary or permanent. As 
permanent cultivation began to extend, however, the 
tree-forest was gradually cleared away and long stretches 
of almost treeless fields took its place. Along the banks 
of the streams a fringe of trees and shrubs, chiefly man- 
groves, growing on muddy land, too low and too much 
subject to inundation to be selected for clearance, pro- 
tected the banks from erosion and formed valuable 
spawning grounds for the migratory kinds of fish which 
came up from the sea for their breeding season. To 
arrest the rapid process of denudation and to protect this 
valuable fringe of jungle against fuel-cutters, agriculturists, 
and even the fish-curers themselves, a rule was made a 
few years ago prohibiting the cutting of trees within two 
chains of the banks of streams. 

Sometimes the damming up of a stream and the 
poisoning of the waters so as to catch the fish more 


easily form an annual festival in which the whole popula- 
tion of the country side takes place. Such used to be, 
and probably still is, the case on the Thaukyegat river, 
a very large and important tributary of the Sittang 
coming from the hills to the east and joining the main 
river about five or six miles below Toungoo. This 
river, the name of which means " whence the drinking 
water is drawn," is a broad, pellucid stream, with a 
shingly bottom, flowing between beautiful hill ranges 
whose covering of tree-forest is only broken here and 
there by the Taungya or "hill cultivation" of the 
Karen tribesmen. 

During the month of April, when the stream, then at 
its lowest level, had sunk to about three feet in depth, a 
strong weir of wooden posts and bamboo screens was 
thrown across it at the lower end of a fine long reach of 
deep water about half a mile in length, just above the 
village of Chaungmagne, " where the main stream 
narrows." In this weir, stretching from bank to bank, 
numerous exits were made at the water level, each 
ending in traps whence the fish could be easily lifted as 
soon as caught. 

Here, at the full moon of Tag^t (about April), the last 
and hottest month of the dry season, the whole of the 
hill-tribesmen and the villagers from all the hamlets in 
the vicinity collected and commenced a slaughter of the 
fish for the purpose of supplying themselves with a stock 
of dried fish to last throughout the whole of the next 
twelvemonth. For three nights — the night before the 
full moon, the night of the full moon, and the night after 
it — the catch continued, large fish being leistered while 
smaller ones and half-grown fishlets were caught in the 
traps. During the daytime and the afternoon the waters 
of the long reach above the weir were poisoned with 
lime, pieces of a woody climber called Hon (Anamirta 
cocculus), the bark of the scandent Suyit [^Acacia pennata), 
and barks and roots of various kinds of trees, shrubs, and 
other climbers. 

After sundown hundreds of men went in canoes to the 
top of the reach, and torches, made of chips of wood and 
wood-oil, were lighted. Then the waters were beaten 



with rods, and the half-stupefied, drugged, and terrified 
fish were driven down stream into the traps of the weir 
or speared in the torchHght by the men in the canoes. 
For three nights this leistering and wholesale destruction 
went on from about seven o'clock in the evening till far 
into the small hours of the morning, the lighted boats 
plying to and fro, and the men at the bamboo-traps in 
the weir busy lifting out fish measuring up to a couple of 
feet and more in length. Many of these were mahseer, or 
Indian salmon, a fish that gives first-class sport to the 
fly-fisher. It was a weird, beautiful sight to see the 
broad river, enclosed between the thickly-wooded hill- 
sides, bearing the vast moving mass of torchlit boats and 
almost nude figures, while the whole scene was flooded 
with the silvery light of the full moon shining in an 
intensely clear and cloudless sky. In the warm, relaxing 
air of a tropical April evening it might have seemed more 
like a scene in fable or fairyland than anything else, but for 
the ceaseless shouting and chatter of the men, and more 
especially of those who lifted the fish from the traps and 
handed them to boatmen on the lower side of the weir 
for transport to the shore as soon as each canoe was 
filled. Gutted, scraped, and salted in the daytime, the 
fish were soon dried by exposure to the scorching rays of 
the fiercely hot April sun. 

The Ngapi, or salt fish condiment, made at the regular 
fisheries is extremely offensive in smell and altogether 
loathsome to western ideas. Immediately after being 
caught and brought to land the fish are either scaled by 
hand or have the scales roughly brushed off with a frayed 
bamboo, and are then thrown into a wooden trough, the 
larger being gutted and deprived of head and fins. 
After being rubbed with salt they are packed in baskets 
and pressed down by means of a board weighted with 
large stones. Next morning they are unpacked and 
again rubbed with salt, then spread out on thin bamboo 
mats to dry in the sun until the afternoon of the following 
day, when they are packed alternately with layers of 
coarse salt in large earthenware jars placed in the shade. 
To retard the process of liquefaction of the salt, the 
powdered bark of the Ondon tree {Tetranthera lauri- 



folia) is mixed with it; but, during the three to five 
weeks this rough method of pickHng is allowed to 
continue, the oily brine oozing to the top and evapor- 
ating, sometimes becomes so full of maggots before drying 
up that fresh supplies of salt have to be added. The 
scaleless siluroid mud-fishes are those most easily treated 
in this way. 

Greater care is taken in the preparation oi Ngathalauk 
(Clupea palasak), the Hilsa of Indian rivers, which are 
simply gutted, but not otherwise cleaned, and then salted 
and sun-dried before being spread between thin bamboo 
mats and pressed for about three days. These dried fish 
i^Ngachauk), the daintiest of Burmese condiments, are 
both in preparation and in transport handled separately, 
whereas the stinkingly offensive Ngap{ is sold in bulk, 
in baskets and sacks. Both varieties are cooked by 
roasting or frying when used to flavour the meal of 
boiled rice. 

Along the Tavoy and Mergui coast a finer quality of 
fish- paste is made with shrimps and prawns, which are 
worked up with salt when half-dried in the sun. As 
this is eaten uncooked, it is termed Seinsa or "raw food." 
The more carefully prepared paste, made with selected 
small prawns, is frequently used with curry and rice as 
a chutney by Europeans all along the Malay coast, where 
it is known as Balachong\ and of recent years it has 
competed with caviare as a bonne bouche in the boulevard 
restaurants of Paris. 

Extensive though the salt-fish industry be, it fails to 
supply the existing demands of the population ; for 
in 1897-98, nearly 12,500 tons of Ngapi vj^tq imported 
from the Malay Peninsula, although home production is 
protected by a duty of six annas (sixpence) per maund of 
80 lbs. 

Within a couple of years of the annexation of 
Tenasserim, in 1826, divers were brought from Madras 
to test the resources of the pearl fisheries which were 
known to exist among the islands of the Mergui 
Archipelago ; but as only seed-pearls were found, the 
fisheries were abandoned as unlikely to yield the large 
revenue which had been anticipated. The fisheries 



continued, however, to be worked in a very primitive 
and spasmodic way by the Selungs or Salones, an 
aboriginal tribe inhabiting the islands, and subsisting 
chiefly by fishing and by the collection of edible birds' 
nests formed by a glutinous exudation from the mouths 
of swifts (Peale's Swiftlet, Collocalia spodiopygia\ C. escu- 
lenta, and others), and used for the preparation of soup as 
a delicacy for rich Chinamen. But it was not till 1892 
that the pearl-oyster beds began to be worked on any 
considerable and systematic scale, when divers with 
scientific apparatus were em.ployed on the work, with 
capital raised in Singapore. In the autumn of that year 
the pearl fields were divided into five blocks and leased 
for three years at a rental of ^^ 1,784 for the first year, 
and ^2,217 for each of the two succeeding years. The 
services of an expert from Queensland were then obtained 
to examine the fisheries, and work is now carried on 
under lease by Australians and Manila divers ; but the 
industry can hardly be said to be in a flourishing 
condition. In 1895, three pearl-beds were discovered oft 
the Bassein coast, only to prove unremunerative after a 
couple of years' working. The pearls found in the 
Mergui Archipelago are of good colour and fine lustre, 
but the fishery season only lasts for about five months 
owing to the exposed nature of the coast and the very 
early advent of the south-west monsoon winds. 

Salt-boiling is an ancient industry all along the coastline, 
and until about thirty years ago this trade formed the 
principal source of the salt supply for Burma. Brine- 
wells occur in the Katha, Shwebo, and Sagaing districts 
of Upper Burma, where salt-boiling forms the occupation 
of the poorest of the poor ; but the northern part of the 
province, together with western Yunnan, has ever been 
practically dependent on Lower Burma for this essential 
commodity. Since about the middle of the sixties, 
however, salt of home production has been in great 
measure supplanted by imports from Europe, cargoes of 
salt being brought in place of ballast by ships coming 
under charter for rice or teak timber. 

Local salt production is taxed by a duty on the 
vessels used in its manufacture, which is intended to be 



equivalent to the import duty of one rupee (i^. 4^.) per 
maund (80 lbs.) levied on foreign salt arriving at any 
seaport. In this branch of import trade Rangoon 
possesses a practical monopoly, as most of the salt used 
in Arakan and Tenasserim is of local production, although 
in the rest of the province foreign salt is now almost 
exclusively used both for domestic consumption and fish- 
salting. The endeavours made to equalize the rates of 
composition for salt duty with this customs import duty 
are rendered very difficult through the power which the 
local industry possesses of increasing production so as to 
meet increases of rates on vessels used. In 1895 the 
rates on cauldrons and pots were revised and enhanced, 
and in 1897 salt-boiling was limited merely to specific 
tracts in certain districts. The only result of this 
restriction, which would be unintelligible but for the 
very poor quality of the home-made product, was to 
reduce the number of pots and cauldrons used, and to 
throw the industry almost entirely into the hands of 
professional salt-boilers, without seriously affecting the 
gross outturn ; for salt-boilers were led to improve their 
methods of manufacture in order to make up for the 
enhancement of taxation. During 1 899-1 900, over 
22,000 tons of salt were manufactured locally, upon 
which the salt-excise revenue demand was ^15,883, 
while import duty amounting to ;^8i,6i4 was collected 
on clearance from bond of portions of the 49,703 tons of 
foreign salt imported. In 1899 fully one-third of the 
salt consumed was of local manufacture, while the 
sources of supply of the remaining two-thirds were almost 
exclusively England and Germany, and respectively in 
the proportions of twenty-seven and thirty-four per cent, 
of the total amount. German salt is cheaper than 
English; and in Upper Burma the former is said to be 
preferred to the latter. The whole revenue actually 
received from salt in 1899 amounted to ^96,414. 

Along the sea-coast iron cauldrons are used for 
boiling sea-water and brine from land flooded by the 
sea, until the contents have evaporated into dryness. In 
the inland tracts, where the soil, the subsoil water, and 
the streams are brackish, fields are divided into compart- 



ments, ploughed, pulverized, and levelled, then filled with 
water which is afterwards drawn off into large tanks 
before being evaporated in great, thick earthenware jars 
kept over a steady fire. Operations are confined to the 
months of February, March, and April. The salt thus 
crudely manufactured is apt to be much discoloured and 
of poor quality, and cannot possibly compete on anything 
like equal terms with the foreign imports. 

Twenty years ago the chief luminant used after dark 
throughout the rural tracts, except those of the dry zone 
within easy reach of the central petroleum fields, was a 
small torch about a foot and a half long made of chips of 
dead wood and the resinous oil of the Kanyin or 
wood-oil tree {^Dipterocarpzis alatus, D. tu7'binatus) rolled 
in palm-leaves. Known in Chittagong and Bengal 
under the name of Gurjan oil, this oleo-resin was ?t one 
time used as a specific for leprosy. It can also be used 
as a thin varnish for interior woodwork, but turns white 
on exposure to wet. These Kanyinsi torches were sold 
in bundles in every bazaar. While burning they emitted 
incessant smoke and a strong oily smell, pungent and 
differing vastly from the European idea of fragrance. 
At one time the manufacture of these torches formed an 
industry wherever the wood-oil trees abounded ; but 
now, in consequence of improved communications and 
of large imports of kerosine at low rates, torch-making is 
only betaken to in jungle tracts in order to eke out the 
means of livelihood during bad years, when the shadow 
of misfortune darkens the household. Although of the 
541,076 acres of sessamum or til {H^ian), nearly 
nineteen-twentieths are cultivated in Upper Burma, yet 
there are comparatively few villages which have not 
their own oil-press {Sizon), as this is the only means of 
preventing adulteration with the cheaper oil obtained 
from ground-nuts, and largely imported from Madras for 
this very purpose. The seed is stored up till the hot 
weather, when it is warmed in the sun for a few days 
before being pressed by mortar and pestle, worked by a 
bullock. A large log having been sunk deep into the 
ground so that only about four feet of it remain above 
ground-level, it is hollowed out for nearly a couple of feet 



in such manner that a heavy revolving pestle can press 
closely round the sides. The upper end of the long 
pestle is fixed to a wooden cross-bar, to the extremity of 
which a bullock is yoked and made to trudge round the 
mill. The oil is either run off through holes in the side 
of the mortar, or obtained by the very primitive method 
of dipping cloths into it and wringing them out when 
saturated with oil. 

Sugar {Thagyd) or Jaggery {Tannyit) is largely made 
from the juice of the toddy-palm {Tan ; Borassiis flabelli- 
formis), which grows all over the province and is 
sometimes planted solely for this purpose, from below 
Prome northwards to the mouth of the Chindwin river. 
The manufacturing process simply consists in boiling the 
juice till it becomes thick, and then spreading it out on 
thin bamboo mats to harden into a dry brown cake. 
A superior kind of tablet of brown sugar (Kyantagd) is 
made in similar manner from the juice of the sugar-cane 
(Kyait) after this has been pressed out in wooden presses 
like those used for extractinof sessamum-oil. The sugrar- 
cane is grown on the rich alluvial deposits left on river 
bends when the summer floods subside, but the total 
area thus cultivated only amounts to about 12,500 
acres, nearly half are in the district round about 

The toddy-palm, whose juice is collected in earthen- 
ware pots fastened to the spadices of leaves where these 
have been cut through to tap the sap in flow, gives 
employment to over 26,000 adult males, and affords the 
means of livelihood to about 90,000 souls. About half 
of those dependent on this industry are to be found in 
the Myingyan and Pakokku districts of Upper Burma. 
Allowed to stand and ferment, toddy soon becomes an 
intoxicating drink, but the great bulk of it is formed into 
jaggery. The smooth stems of the tall palms, which run 
up to fifty or sixty feet before bearing their coronal tuft 
of sparse fan-shaped leaves, are ascended by means of 
small thorny bamboos lashed to the stem. A certain 
monkey-like agility, combined with a cool head and good 
hands and feet, is required for their ascent; and the 
Burmese are adepts at this kind of tree-climbing. 



It is, however, perhaps in woodcraft and the extraction 
of timber that the Burman excels most of all. With 
regard to this, although he is careful to put himself to no 
unnecessary personal exertion, he cheerfully undergoes 
a vast amount of continuous exposure under troublesome 
and depressing circumstances. He possesses a consider- 
able natural bent in this direction, united to hereditary 
association with jungle work. For the felling of the 
largest trees he uses no implements save a heavy bill 
(Da), an axe {Pauksein), and a sort of chisel-axe {Kyet- 
taung) having a movable head. The Da has a slightly 
curved blade of about a foot and a half in length, which 
varies up to one-fourth or one-third of an inch in thickness 
along the back, and is fixed firmly into a rounded slightly 
convex wooden handle of nine or ten inches in length. A 
heavy and well balanced bill, it is a very effective instru- 
ment, used for everything in the way of cutting, from the 
whittling of a small shred of bamboo for a toothpick up 
to the felling of giant stems from three to five feet in 
diameter. The Pauksein are usually flat-headed axes 
with straight shafts, as improved English and American 
instruments find no favour with the woodmen. The un- 
doubtedly greater effectiveness of the latter is dependent 
solely on greater personal exertion in using them ; and 
this is a fatal drawback in the eyes of the Burman. The 
Kyettaung or "fowl's feather" is an extremely interest- 
ing implement, because it forms the hitherto missing link 
between the methods of the stone age and those of 
modern advances and developments. It consists of an 
iron head about nine or ten inches in length, the upper 
part of which is conical and tapering to a point, while 
the lower steel- faced portion becomes broadened and 
flattened like a thin chisel having a cutting edge of 
about two inches or slightly more. This chisel-axe is 
fastened to a long slightly curved handle made from the 
branch and stem of a sapling Kyetyo {Vitex alata) or 
other light, tough tree, the branch forming the shaft and 
the short section of the stem being hollowed out to form 
a bed for the lower half of the conical top of the chisel- 
axe. The latter is held in position by being firmly 
laced down with strips of cane. The peculiar advantage 



possessed by this quaint and very effective implement is 
that the cutting edge can be set at any angle desired, by 
simply displacing the head and turning round the conical 
portion in its casing of cane and wood. While easily 
moved and fixed in any new position, there is no practi- 
cal danger of its flying out of the case during use. 

No Burman in the rural tracts ever goes out of the 
house without his Da in his hand, and at an early age 
he acquires marvellous dexterity with it, while the effec- 
tiveness of these simple tools is heightened by means of 
almost universal ambidexterousness in their use. 

With these primitive wood- cutting implements many 
hundreds of thousands of trees are annually felled for 
extraction and sale, or for the mere clearance of the soil 
for temporary rice-cultivation by the hill tribes. When 
large trees are strongly buttressed near the base, as 
often happens on steep hill-sides, the wood-fellers erect 
a bamboo stage some feet above the ground and work in 
a leisurely manner at the part where the girth seems to 
them of more reasonable dimensions. Stumps of large 
trees containing valuable timber are thus often left from 
five or six to ten or even twelve feet high, greatly to the 
vexation of the Forest Officer. The foresting contracts 
stipulate that felling is to take place within three feet 
above the ground ; but this clause cannot always be 
enforced in hilly country where labour is difficult to pro- 

The more economic process of felling by use of axe 
and saw is only now being found capable of introduction 
under the immediate supervision of European foresters ; 
and even for the logging of felled stems the Burman 
will naturally prefer to use his bill and axe unless forced 
to cross-cut with the saw. Hereditary custom possesses 
enormous force in this, as in other matters, among the 
Burmese. Time is to him of far less consideration than 
the avoidance of innovations which seem to entail more 
personal exertion ; and as for the greater economy with 
regard to timber, that is absolutely the very last idea 
with which he would trouble his mind. As an example 
both of what can be done with such simple implements 
and of the waste of good timber in so richly wooded a 



country as Burma, I may record, as having come within 
my own personal knowledge, the felling and logging, with 
such small bills and axes only, of an enormous hard 
Pyingado or ironwood tree {Xylia dolabriformis) in the 
Bassein district which yielded a log measuring sixty feet 
in length and having a girth of thirteen feet measured at 
the middle. This was rough-hewn or wastefully chipped 
away at the sides so as to form merely one long thick 
plank for use as the keel of a sea-going boat. All the 
rest of the timber was wasted ; and this is a fair sample 
of the sort of thing that goes on all over the country. 

The most important forest work is connected with 
the teak timber (Tectofta grandis), for which Burma 
is renowned. When felled it is logged in as large 
dimensions as can be extracted under local circumstances, 
for the value of sound logs increases largely with their 
dimensions. The largest recorded teak log was one of 
82|- feet in length by lo feet mean girth, which was 
launched into a tributary of the Shweli river, in 1898, by 
Messrs. Darwood & Co., foresting there under a pur- 
chase contract with Government. It girthed over 12 
feet at the base and over 7 feet at the top end, and 
contained 517 cubic feet or 10^ tons of timber. Logs of 
anything like even two-thirds of that length are, however, 
exceptional ; and the great bulk of the timber extracted 
varies from about 20 to 30 feet in length. Logging 
of stems is partly dependent on the formation of the bole 
and the occurrence of large branches, but one of the 
main considerations guiding the timber contractor has of 
course reference to the dragging power at his command. 

On fairly level or merely undulating ground buffaloes 
are used extensively for dragging. Yoked together in 
pairs by means of a stout wooden beam, from which a 
chain is attached to dragholes cut in the log, from one to 
four or five yoke of strong buffaloes drag the timber to 
the floating stream or to collecting places whence it can 
be conveyed on rough little timber carts {Gindeik). To 
make dragging easier it was, and to some extent unfor- 
tunately still is, the wasteful custom in Upper Burma to 
*' snout " the thick end of the logs with the axe so as to 
make them offer less resistance in being dragged along 

369 BB 


the ground. Logs thus fashioned are called Ngahl 
Gamig, from their resemblance to a carp's head (Ngalii ; 
Labeo angra) 

The timber-carts are small strong tumbrils consisting 
merely of two broad wheels and a large central block of 
wood hollowed to form a bed for the log and keep it 
from rolling off on either side. Loading takes place by 
the laborious though ingenious method of raising the 
butt end of the log by means of a chain suspended to 
stout poles attached to the yoke at the end of the cart- 
shaft and resting on the wooden block above the axle- 
tree. The end of the shaft is raised high up in the air 
when the chain is passed under the head of the log ; and 
on men pulling it down again the leverage obtained with 
the axle as fulcrum enables the head of the log to be 
brought on the cart. It is then easily levered forward 
with poles so as almost to balance, when it is lashed 
down to the shaft. A huge well-balanced log can thus 
easily be carted by a pair of buffaloes. Work of this 
particular kind by buffaloes is of course confined almost 
entirely to the dry season and the early part of the rains. 

Wherever the local configuration of the soil is unfavour- 
able for buffalo-dragging, as well as during the height of 
the wet monsoon months, and for all work in the floating 
streams, elephants are required ; and powerful tuskers 
now command prices varying from two to three thousand 
rupees (;^i33 to £20)6). Females are also largely em- 
ployed ; but they have neither the weight and strength 
of the males, nor can they without tusks " handle " the 
logs in the way the males are taught to do. The intel- 
ligence of elephants — and the Burmese elephant is no 
doubt about the cleverest, though perhaps the smallest 
of the genus — seems much overrated. The apparent 
intelligence in handling timber is solely due to training 
and to the guiding of the mahout or Uzi, " the man 
riding on the head," who directs movements by voice, 
knee and toes, and enforces his directions with the pointed 
arguments of a sharp heavy iron spike fixed to a thin 
wooden handle about two and a half feet long. The spike 
is curved or slightly hooked, so that it can be hung over 
the elephant's ear in more peaceful moments. 



As a matter of fact the elephant hates dragging and 
hard work just as much as his Burmese master does ; and 
when made to exert all his strength in moving heavy logs 
sticking fast in the mud, he trumpets and roars as loudly 
as ever he can. For timber extraction during the rainy 
season, however, when the ground is a mass of deep mud, 
elephants are indispensable, though in course of time some 
other motive power will have to be introduced owing to 
the gradual diminution in their numbers. Large wild 
herds still roam about many of the forests and lay waste 
cultivation in parts of the more thinly populated districts ; 
while breeding is carried on among animals maintained 
in a semi-captive state in the forests of eastern Tenas- 
serim and western Siam ; yet the steady increase in the 
price of elephants has arisen not only through competi- 
tion for their possession, but also from failure of the supply 
to meet the growing demand. And as timber operations 
are expanding throughout the province, this demand is 
certain to become enhanced throughout the great forest 
tracts of the country. 

For dragging work the elephant is lightly harnessed 
with a broad breast-band made of twisted liber of the 
Shaw tree {Sterculia villosa), to the ends of which the 
heavy iron dragging chains are fixed, the latter being 
held up in position by another Shaw rope passing over 
the back behind the shoulder-blades. The backbone is 
protected by a skeleton saddle of wood or by rounded 
blocks of light wood resting upon a thick pad of folded 
skins and Shaw bark. Logs of ordinary size — about 
twenty to thirty feet in length and six to seven feet in 
mean girth — can be dragged by one elephant ; but for 
long large-girthed timber two, three, or more are set to 
work simultaneously on alternate sides of the log. In- 
cluding dragging, launching into the creeks, and bringing 
into the fair channel such logs as have got stranded or 
stuck, an elephant can work out from about 70 to 1 50 logs 
a year according to the class of animal and the given local 
conditions under which the work is done. 

The work of felling, logging, and dragging commences 
in November or December, and is continued till the 
great heat and the want of water — for all except the main 


streams dry up during the hot season — bring work to an 
end with the month of March. The early rains find the 
lumberers again at work; and dragging, drifting, and 
floating operations continue all through the rainy season, 
the largest deliveries of timber at Rangoon taking place 
between November and February. 

Logs are launched singly into the bed of a floating 
stream and allowed to drift along as each heavy fall of 
rain brings down a freshet. Near the sources of the 
small tributaries, and even in many of the main channels 
having broad, shallow, sandy watercourses, these rises and 
falls occur very suddenly, and cannot be utilized to full 
advantage unless elephants are at hand near the launched 
logs to push them into the main current. This is done 
by the elephant applying its head, just above the root of 
the trunk, to the end of the log and making the latter 
slide forward over the wet mud or sand into the deep 
water, or into the position required. To aimg or " over- 
come " obstructive logs in this way the aid of the elephant 
is essential ; buffaloes are of no use for the purpose. 

It not infrequently happens that in drifting down loosely 
in the floating streams logs get stuck in shallows or ob- 
structed by snags or jungle rubbish and drift refuse from 
the forest ; for the banks of the streams are much sub- 
ject to erosion, when trees and bamboos growing at their 
edge fall into the current and are swept down till their 
course is perchance arrested by snags, or through the sub- 
siding of the waters. Care is therefore taken to patrol 
the floating streams and keep them clear of snags and 
jungle refuse ; but sometimes in the course of a single 
night large obstructions are formed by the jamming of 
hundreds of logs. For the breaking up of such obstruc- 
tions ( Talk) formed of logs and jungle drift {Taikthaydw) 
elephants are again essential, and both animals and their 
intrepid drivers incur no little danger while loosening the 
logs and setting free the vast masses of firmly wedged 
timber and bamboos that dam up the waters behind 

Many streams give a vast amount of trouble in this 
respect. The most troublesome are perhaps three large 
streams draining an extensive forest area along the western 



slopes of the Pegu Yoma in the Tharrawaddy and Prome 
districts of Lower Burma. After reachin^r the phiins 
these streams all converge near the boundary between 
the two districts and form the Myitmaka or Hlaing river 
leading direct to Rangoon. During the flood months of 
July to September the Myitmaka meets here with the 
flood waters of the Irrawaddy, which then rise and inun- 
date the whole of the country from Myanaung, on the 
western river bank, eastwards to within four or five miles 
of the Rangoon and Prome railway line. As the hill 
streams come into the slack water thus formed during 
floods the heavier sandy portion of the silt becomes 
deposited and a bar or sandy obstruction is formed which 
tends not only to impede timber-floating operations, but 
also to cause inundation of the surrounding rice-lands, 
destruction of crops, and deviation of the watercourse. 
After nearly a quarter of a century of wrangling between 
district and forest officers, and of repeated consideration 
of this problem by the Engineering Department, it has 
been proved that the best and indeed the only practic- 
able way of obviating these annually recurring dangers 
at this particular locality is to maintain a clear water- 
course and to keep it open by timber extraction. This 
necessitates the cutting in each dry season of a narrow 
channel about two or three hundred yards in length 
through the sandy bar, and keeping it open continuously 
by means of elephants dragging or "^«;/^"-ing logs 

At the end of each rainy season all the floating 
streams are examined, and stranded logs are placed in a 
favourable position for being drifted down with the early 
floods of the following season. 

On reaching the main rivers the drift-logs are caught 
at convenient centres and formed into rafts, which are 
floated down to the great timber marts of Rangoon and 
Moulmein. The method employed is simple and effective. 
A thick rattan cane (of the genus Calajuns) is stretched 
loosely across the stream and firmly fixed at each end. 
Being run through the drag- holes of a series of logs, 
it is kept just on the surface of the water, and forms a 
boom {Kyodan, "rope line") to catch the drifting timber, 



which is taken out from below by men in canoes and 
removed to where the rafts {Paimg) are made up. 
Though varying much in size, the rafts are all con- 
structed on the same principle. The logs of about equal 
length are arranged in sections, being lashed together 
fore and aft by transverse poles fixed with split rattan to 
the drag-holes of the logs, and each section is connected 
by strong twisted rattan to the sections before and behind 
it. On the Sittang river, where floating operations begin 
early and the current is very strong, the rafts consist only 
of forty to fifty logs in about four to six sections, while 
on the Irrawaddy river the rafts from Mandalay, which 
do not start on their 500 miles' river journey till early in 
October after the flood period is at an end, are three 
or four times as large. 

The number of men employed specially in the 
extraction and handling of timber in the rough cannot 
be estimated with any approach to accuracy, but the 
extraction and preparation of forest produce afford 
employment to between fifty and sixty thousand adult 
males and yield a livelihood to over a quarter of a million 
souls or about three per cent, of the total population. 
These bald figures, however, hardly bring home to one's 
mind the national and economic importance of Burma's 
vast forest wealth. This may perhaps be better exempli- 
fied in the statement that the outturn of timber and fuel 
in 1897-98 amounted to 58 millions of cubic feet, whilst 
157 millions of bamboos were extracted, besides minor 
produce of various sorts. The gross income from forests 
during 1899-1900 was .;^556,726, while the net surplus 
revenue was £2>99^'^5^' 

One of the chief of the jungle industries connected 
with the utilization of minor forest produce is cutch- 
boiling. Three men usually work together in one camp. 
One of them fells the Ska or cutch trees (Acacia 
Catechi) and drags them to camp, while another hews 
off the pale sapwood and cuts the dark red-brown heart- 
wood into small chips of about an inch square and a 
quarter of an inch thick, and the third looks after the 
boiling of the chips in earthenware pots and iron 
cauldrons. Round earthenware pots, of about three 



gallons capacity, and to the number of about twenty or 
twenty-four, after being tightly packed with chips and 
filled up with water, are placed over narrow earthen 
trenches in which fires are kept constantly burning. 
Near these trenches are placed the central fires in holes 
dug in the ground, above which iron cauldrons of about 
twelve gallons capacity are hung. By the time the 
pots full of chips have boiled for nearly twenty-four 
hours the liquid they then contain has been reduced to 
about half its original quantity. From the pots it is 
next poured into the iron cauldrons and boiling is 
continued, with stirring, till the liquid attains a viscous 
consistency. After the removal of the cauldron from the 
fire stirring has to continue so as to let the cutch cool 
equally throughout its whole mass in place of forming a 
hard solid cake on the top. When cool enough to be 
handled, it is poured out in moulds, like brick moulds, 
lined with large leaves to prevent it from sticking to the 
sides. Fresh chips are used each time the earthenware 
pots are filled and placed on the trench fires. During 
the rainy season boiling takes place under an awning of 
thatched grass, to protect the fires from the rain. The 
method is crude and wasteful, for a cubic foot of Sha 
wood weighing between sixty and seventy pounds only 
yields on the average about 3f pounds of cutch when 
thus primitively treated. 

Cutch-boiling forms the chief means ot livelihood of a 
large number of the poorer classes in the Prome and 
Thayetmyo districts of Lower Burma, who work for 
Chinese that furnish them with the money for obtaining 
licenses. But it also affords to many more in these 
districts, and in the Upper Burma districts of precarious 
rainfall, a subsidiary means of eking out a subsistence 
during times of scarcity. In some of the driest portions 
of the central zone, as in Pakokku, Myingyan, and 
Meiktila, where the cutch tree does not attain the 
same dimensions as in tracts blessed with a rainfall of 
about forty to sixty inches, recent years of scarcity have, 
combined with improved communications by the railway 
opening out the land-locked interior, effected the 
exhaustion of marketable trees within the cutch-pro- 



ducing area. It grows quickly, however, and reserves 
and plantations are being formed by the Forest Depart- 
ment for the provision and maintenance of future supplies 
of this valuable tree. 

Of recent years the reputation of Burma cutch has 
been lowered through adulteration, and measures have 
been taken by Government to try and obviate this. The 
chief adulterants are bark extracts made from various 
kinds of trees, and more especially from those of the 
genus Terminalia. Astringent to a degree, these bark 
extracts are perhaps worthy of commercial attention for 
the preparation of tanning extracts ; but their admixture 
depreciated the cutch trade. 

Charcoal-burning forms the occupation of compara- 
tively few, and it is followed in a most wasteful manner. 
Open pits are dug, fire is placed in these, and wood 
thrown on which is allowed to char. The preparation 
of charcoal is generally confined to the wet season, as 
otherwise the wood would be completely consumed, 
leaving only the ashes as the product of combustion. 
As it is, the outturn is of course of a very poor descrip- 
tion, and consists mostly of small pieces. 

Conversion of timber at all seaports, and at a few mills 
in the forests, takes place by means of steam power, but 
hand-sawing is still general in all the towns and larger 
villages, and even in the heart of the jungle, throughout 
the province. There does not exist, however, within the 
whole length and breadth of the country any sawmill 
driven by water-power ; nor has the Burmese mind 
apparendy ever risen to the possibility of utilizing water- 
power in this manner. 

With continuous progress in the formation ot perma- 
nent roads since the British occupation, the manufacture 
and the use of carts have increased enormously. There 
are now 438,282 carts in the province, or about two for 
every five households on the plains. Radical changes 
have also at the same time been made in their con- 
struction, to suit them for roads metalled — when metalled 
at all--mosdy with balls of burned brick apt to be easily 
pulverized during the hot season. Good greenstone 
road-metal is only to be found in the seaports and 



their immediate vicinity, where it is obtainable from ships 
that have brought it out as ballast from Europe. 

In former times, before the era of road-makin<,S the 
country carts had to be so constructed as to be capable 
of travelling over very rough ground. The cart-tracks 
began in the fields whence the grain was brought on 
sledges or carts to the hamlets and villages, and gradually 
those single threads converged to form the main lines of 
communication, as small tributary streams are gathered 
together in the main watercourse. 

Two heavy, round, convex-sided, untyred wheels about 
three feet in circumference, made out of a solid block of 
hard wood, or else in two or more frequently three pieces, 
having^ been fashioned and fitted to a hard tougrh axle- 
tree, a shaft is formed of two poles extending in an 
upward curve for some feet behind this and reaching 
forward for about ten or twelve feet. These being 
lashed together at the front end, the bed of the cart is 
formed either of boards or of stout bamboo strips loosely 
interwoven, the sides being a rough wooden framework 
let into the poles forming the shaft. From the yoke, 
fixed by a leather thong to the front part of the two- 
poled shaft, the framework slopes down to the axle-tree 
and then curves up behind, thus necessitating the selection 
of poles with symmetrical bend. For ornament the poles 
jut out behind, and to finish off the cart in front a piece 
of wood pointing upwards is lashed to the end of the 
shaft and carved to represent the neck and head of a 
paddy bird or white heron {Herodias alba). Even 
when no attempt is made to adorn this piece of wood it 
is always called the Hgnetyok or " image of the bird," 
and to it is always fastened the wisp of flowers, the ears 
of grain, or the simple twigs placed as an offering to the 
spirits of the air when carting home the harvest or 
setting out upon any journey by road. 

The carts drawn by buffaloes are larger and heavier 
than those meant for bullocks, but in all essential features 
the indigenous form of Burmese cart formerly used all 
over the country, though now only to be met with off the 
beaten tracks of main communication, differed only in 
dimensions and not as regards the lines upon which they 



were constructed. There is no metal work about them. 
Wheels, axle-boxes, axle-trees, lynch-pins, shafts, body, 
and sides are all made of wood, and are jointed, 
mortised, and tenoned with wood, wherever necessary. 
For the wheels Padauk {Pterocarpus indicus) is the wood 
preferred ; and as creaking is considered melodious 
instead of being looked on as a defect, a fine well-toned 
pair will fetch as much as thirty rupees {£1). The 
favourite woods for axles are the hard, tough Gyo 
{Schleichera trijuga), Petwun {Berry a mollis), Cutch 
{Acacia Catechu), and Ironwood or Pyingado (Xylia dola- 
hriformis), while Yindaik {Dalbergia cultratd), Petwun, 
and Mangroves in the tidal districts are most prized as 

Such primitive carts were well enough suited to the 
extremely rough work for which they were required 
before the country began to be opened out by permanent 
roads. They could stand very rough work better than 
carts of more complex construction, and could be repaired 
without the aid of any blacksmith or wheelwright. But 
they soon cut up the earthen roads, and by the middle 
of the hot season, when all the moisture had completely 
evaporated from the soil, the ruts became so deep that 
the carts sank nearly up to the axle in the pulverized 
earth. This did not matter much, however, as the roads 
became impassable during the rainy season and were 
opened anew each year when traffic overland became 
once more practicable. 

Whenever a string of carts passed along, a thick cloud 
of fine dust was raised which hung long in the hot air. 
From afar off the monotonous, high-pitched creaking 
and groaning of the wheels against the broad wooden 
axle-boxes could be heard increasing in intensity as they 
approached, and then passed, and gradually lessened and 
faded away, something like the well-known arrangement 
of the " Turkish Patrol." During the hottest season, 
from the middle of March till the middle of May, when 
cartmen go by night to avoid exposing their cattle and 
themselves in the daytime, sleep was almost out of 
the question to the unfortunate traveller whose camp 
happened to be on any of the much frequented tracks. 



To protect the driver and the load from the effects of 
sun, dew and rain a thin bamboo mat is often stretched 
across the top of the cart in the form of a semi-circular 
awning. When thus slowly wending their way along at 
less than two miles an hour the cartmen take the leading 
position by turns, and the driver of the first cart is 
supposed to keep awake and guide the party while the 
rest enjoy repose in sleep. The wakefulness of the 
leading cartman is usually, however, merely nominal ; he, 
too, generally goes to sleep, and the bullocks wander 
on just as they list. 

With the formation ot municipalities and the licensing 
of carts plying for hire in urban districts, it soon also 
became necessary to insist on the use of spoked and iron- 
tyred wheels for traffic along Government roads. The 
use of country carts with solid wooden wheels has not been 
exactly suppressed in rural districts, but under Public 
Works Departmental orders they are supposed only to go 
along the iDerme, leaving the prepared roadway, whether 
metalled or unmetalled, for carts of improved construc- 
tion. Wooden wheels get worn away unevenly and then 
jolt fearfully, throwing much extra work on the buffaloes 
or bullocks. Hence the gradual disappearance of this 
picturesque remnant of primitive Burma is hardly a matter 
for regret. Carts of light and graceful construction are 
used for bullock-racing in the Thaton district ; while 
light single-pole carts, with enclosed sides and a consider- 
able quantity of carving around them, do duty as carriages 
in Mandalay. 

Boats, however, approach much more nearly than carts 
to being an essential requisite of life in Burma, and 
especially so in the delta and in all districts having heavy 
rainfall. For two or three months of the year vast 
stretches of country are deep under water, and loco- 
motion is confined to boats. Many of the villages on 
the plains become inundated so that movement even 
from house to house has to take place in canoes ; and 
during July and August large boats can be poled up, far 
inland from the streams, in the ditches at the side of the 
Public Works roads. 

Except as regards the comparatively few sea-going 



craft built with heavy keels of ironwood, boat-construction 
follows very much the same main lines, no matter whether 
a small fifteen to eighteen feet canoe or a large boat for 
transport of earth-oil or rice be in consideration. The 
former consists simply of a "dug-out" or hollowed stem ; 
while in the latter a dug-out forms the hull or base upon 
which ribs and crooks are fixed for the support of wash- 
boards and side-planks. The country boats are con- 
sequently of shallow draft, and can be easily lifted or 
poled off when they happen to run on any mudbank or 
sandy shoal. 

The most highly prized ana valuable hulls are those 
made of Tkingan (Hopea odorata) or Teak {Kytln ; 
Tedona grandis), which are said to last about thirty years. 
Pyinma (Lagerstroemia flos reginae) and Lesa (Z. 
tomentosd) are also much in demand ; but the largest 
number of canoes is made from the less durable In 
{Dipterocarpus tuber cidatus), which is the most abundant 
tree throughout Burma and can easily be obtained of 
large girth and free from branches to the required length. 
Under the Forest Rules timber, except teak and a few 
other reserved kinds, can be cut free for boats required 
for bona fide domestic and agricultural use, though all 
such as are made for trade purposes have to pay 

The green log having been roughly hollowed out, with 
due consideration to the future shape of the hull when com- 
pleted, a light fire is applied all round it and the sides are 
gradually stretched outwards by means of wooden hooks 
and strong wet cords fixed to stout pegs in the ground, 
which contract slightly in drying. More hollowing out 
then takes place, and further stretching apart ; and so on 
till the sides are fully opened out, and the work of adzing, 
smoothing, and fashioning the dug-out can be completed. 
The operations extend over a considerable time, to 
obviate any cracking which would render the hull practi- 
cally worthless. 

When large boats are built, the bows are kept low, 
while the stern runs up behind to form an elevated stage 
for the helmsman, which is often very richly ornamented 
with carving in teak. Some of the carvings on the 



sterns of large boats on the Irrawaddy are of a liigh 
artistic order, though somewhat rough in execution. 
The helm consists of a huge paddle lashed to the port- 
side and moved by a short handle from the steersman's 
bench. The Penin who " treads on the stern " is the man 
in authority on board ; and this term is often applied to 
the petty officials in up-country hamlets. The oarsmen 
row standing up. They generally have small foot-rests 
against which they press with one foot when giving the 
weight of their bodies to the stroke, while they remove 
this foot and give it a backward swing when bringing 
forward the oar again for another stroke. 

Among the Intkd or " lake-dwellers " around the Inle 
lake near Fort Stedman in the southern Shan State of 
Nyaungywe, the men row their canoes standing up with 
the leg wound round the long oar which passes down 
the inner side of the knee, then across the tibia, and past 
the outer side of the foot. 

For rowing small canoes, and long Laung or racing 
skiffs, used also in conveying priests from place to place 
and generally kept under the village monastery, light, 
pointed paddles with long narrow blades are used, while 
the steersman guides the boat with a long and broad 
sweep. Paint is not used on boats or canoes, which are 
smeared from time to time with dark-brown crude earth- 
oil to preserve and beautify them. The racing skiffs 
form, however, an exception, as they are almost invari- 
ably coated over with black varnish both inside and out- 

On the Irrawaddy enormous lug sails of thin white or 
light-brown cotton are used to carry the boats up stream 
during the hot weather and the monsoon season, when 
strong winds usually blow inwards from the sea-coast. 
The mast is formed of two giant bamboos ( IVabo : Dcn- 
drocalamiis Brandisit) bolted and lashed to the hull, and 
spliced together in the top portion. On this a yard con- 
sisting of bamboo is raised having pulleys at the ends 
through which cords pass, so that by hauling these the 
sail extends by running on rings along the smooth bam- 
boo yard on both sides of the mast. As the boats are 
smooth-bottomed, without any ridged keel, and the sails 



are only adapted for running straight before the wind, 
little or no tacking is possible. When the wind fails or 
is unfavourable, rowing in slack water or poling along 
the bank must be reverted to. When not in use, the 
mast is lowered down on to the roof of the arch covering 
the dwelling part of the boat. 

During April, May, and June, before the Irrawaddy 
becomes so swollen with flood water as to have a swift 
current, the wind blowing up stream is often so strong as 
to impede the progress of large boats making the down- 
ward journey, and water- sails are then lowered to catch 
the under-currents and carry the boat down stream in 
spite of the wind. A fleet of large Irrawaddy boats 
sailing up stream under their enormous expanse of white 
or light-brown sails, forms a very pleasing and graceful 
addition to Irrawaddy river scenery often extremely pic- 
turesque and beautiful in itself. 

For the conveyance downwards from Yenangyaung of 
crude earth-oil, carried in large glazed earthenware jars, 
boats {Peingaw) of special construction are built. They 
usually consist of two broad, straight, punt-like dug-outs 
lashed together, and have a bamboo gallery extending 
along both sides to facilitate poling up stream whenever 
the bamboos have to be taken in hand for this purpose. 
These Peingaw are not to be met with except on the 
Irrawaddy. The royal barge or " great golden raft " at 
Mandalay — which was never used after the Myingun 
Prince's rebellion in 1866, because the King was afraid 
to leave his palace and go on the river — was of this class. 
It was profusely decorated with tinsel, coloured glass, 
and gilding, and was finished off fore and aft with wild 
leogryphs picked out in gorgeous colours, the gilded 
and glass-mosaiced pavilion occupying the central posi- 
tion being surmounted with a seven-tiered pagoda-like 

For some distance immediately in front of the steers- 
man's perch the hind part of the ordinary Burmese river- 
boat is covered with an arched awning of bamboo mat 
so as to form the dwelling-place of the crew. Here the 
cooking is done on a shallow box filled with earth, and 
here the men sleep at night. The deck of the boat is 



formed by thick bamboo mats or coarse framework placed 
over the cargo, for loading does not take place above the 

Notwithstanding the competition of railway and 
steamers, there is still a vast amount of petty and local 
traffic conveyed by boats ; and the floating population 
employed in this, as well as in timber-rafting opera- 
tions, includes no small proportion of the worst classes 
of thieves, gamblers, and opium-smokers to be found 
among those of pure Burmese nationality. 

In all jungle hamlets, and in most villages, a man 
builds his own house, his neighbours helping him to raise 
the posts and place them in position. It is only in larger 
villages that the assistance of a carpenter {Letthama) or 
"handy man" is required for house-building. In the 
heart of the jungle, indeed, the houses are made of poles, 
bamboos, and grass, without any rails or iron-work being 
required in their construction. 

Mat-weaving with thin strips of bamboo is universal, 
but the preparation of a fine quality of mat from the 
outer portion of the Thin rattan {^Maranta dichotoma) 
forms a speciality in various parts. They are often 
woven in patterns with strips dyed black for this purpose 
in a decoction of the bark and leaves of the Zibytc tree 
(Zizyphus jujuba), the work of this finer class forming 
the occupation of women. The best mats are made at 
Daniibyu in the Henzada district, where mat-making has 
almost entirely displaced the weaver's hand-loom. The 
mats known as Thinbyu are used all over the country 
for sleeping on, a Burman's bed consisting merely of a 
blanket or cotton coverlet {Satmg), and a small pillow 
rolled up in one of these flexible mats and tied with 
string. The Thin grows in great abundance throughout 
the lower delta. After being steeped in water it is split, 
and the rind is peeled off in two layers which are woven 
separately. The smooth outer strip forms the fine 
upper portion of the mat, while the rougher inner rind 
is plaited for the coarser lower part. When stitched 
together, the finished mat, consisting thus of two layers, 
mitigates the discomfort of sleeping on the ground or on 
a flooring of plank or bamboo. A Thinbyu mat spread 



on a bed is the coolest resting place during the hot season 
of the year. 

The heart of the Thin rattan is used for rope-making. 
But there are many excellent fibres of far better quality 
suitable for this and for other textile purposes, many of 
which have as yet no marketable value. All along the 
coast coir or cocoa-nut husk is extensively picked and 
twisted into cordage for mats and ropes, and this forms 
an important industry in all the large jails. But in the 
rural tracts tree-fibres are in general use, the most impor- 
tant being supplied by species of Shaw {Sterculid). On 
the rope- walk a simple wooden framework containing 
spindles worked by a crank handle is all the machinery 
that is employed for turning out well twisted, stout 
cordage and ropes. The fibre-yielding shrubs and grasses 
may become of considerable economic importance in the 
future, but thus far the other resources of the province 
have proved so abundant and remunerative that little or no 
attention has yet been given to the former commercially. 

Blacksmiths are to be found plying their trade all over 
the country, though their number is very limited. Of the 
less than 6,000 males following this occupation, the great 
majority find employment in the manufacture of Da. 
Apart from the shorter heavy bills {Dama), varying up to 
about four pounds in weight, used by agriculturists and 
wood-fellers, sword-like blades [Ddshe or " long Da," 
and '' Dalwe'' or ''Da suspended from the shoulder"), 
considerably lighter, though of greater length, are made 
in large numbers. These latter, as well as short daggers 
{Damydung) are cased in a sheath formed of two pieces 
of light wood slightly hollowed and bound together with 
fine cane, or with bands of brass or silver. The finest 
blades are manufactured at Pyawbwe, at the base of the 
Shan hills near the eastern limit of the great central dry 
zone. Some of these, beautifully damascened, are really 
works of art. The blacksmith's crude bellows consist of 
two sections of a large bamboo or of cylinders of wood, 
up and down which loosely fitting pistons are moved to 
expel the current of air from small holes at the base. 
It seems almost incredible that there should be so few 
blacksmiths among a population numbering y^ millions ; 




but, except as regards their Da^ the Burmese have very 
few requirements in this respect. As a nation they 
possess no mechanical abiUty. Of the 894,018 agricul- 
tural implements in the country classifiable as ploughs, 
probably less than a mere tithe have any iron-work about 
them ; while everything in the shape of nails, except the 
largest mushroom-headed spikes {Hmo) used for house- 
building and other constructive purposes, are imported 
from foreign countries. As the Burmese do not use 
brass or copper vessels for cooking, the few brass-founders 
and coppersmiths in the province are almost entirely 
employed in art- work, such as founding images of Gau- 
dama, making gongs and similar articles. 

As a rule the people go about bare-footed when at 
work, but almost every man, woman, and child has at 
least one pair of sandals {Pandt)y and the number of 
sandal-makers is about three-fold that of blacksmiths. 
The sandals are usually made of soft, light, white wood, 
Yamand (Gmelina arbor ea) being the most highly prized, 
though thick dyed felt is also much used in the towns. 
They are kept in place by two thongs meeting between 
the big toe and extending thence, the one behind the ball 
of the toe and the other round the base of the instep to 
the sides. The wooden sandals are merely clogs, the 
middle portion of the lower part of which is cut out, 
except near the toe and the heel, so as to keep the feet out 
of the mud and water on the ground. Priests and Shan 
travellers most frequently wear leather sandals ; and 
wayfarers as a rule walk barefoot in order to save their 
sandals. On entering a house or a monastery, or when 
approaching any religious shrine to make obeisance and 
repeat the religious precepts, the sandals are invariably 
doffed in token of respect. 

In the towns the use of patent leather shoes, and also 
of hose or socks, has for years past become the customary 
attire of the up-to-date young Burman, and this is more 
particularly the case among petty officials and clerks ; 
but that is merely a very minor item among the many 
changes, which are often anything but improvements, 
taking place among the Burmese coming more direcdy 
in contact with western civilization. 

385 ^'^ 


Paper being imported from India in large quantities, 
though of course the finer qualities come from Europe, 
the native manufacture is now confined mainly to the 
preparation of Parabaik, or paper-slates used at monas- 
teries, and of umbrellas. The inner fibre of soft bam- 
boo shoots or the bark of the Mahlaingox paper-mulberry 
{Broussonettia papyri/era) being pounded into a pulp 
with water, and half its weight of lime being then added, 
it is boiled with water until nothing but the pulp is left. 
This is pounded and spread thinly over a coarse cotton 
muslin framework, and allowed to dry in the sun. It 
now forms a rough grey parchment, about a cubit in 
breadth, which is folded up in alternating folds of about 
nine inches wide. When coated with finely powdered 
charcoal dust mixed in glutinous rice-water, it is ready 
for being written upon with pencils of steatite or soap- 

Umbrellas are made of the same sort of parchment- 
like paper, glued to spokes of thin split bamboo, and 
fastened to a stem made of the Tiyowa or " umbrella- 
handle bamboo" (Thyrsostachys Siamensis). They are 
usually coated with an oily waterproof varnish which 
gives them, when open, a diaphanous yellow appearance ; 
and such alone may be held over priests and other "re- 
ligious ; " but, for umbrellas used by ordinary folks, a 
coating of black varnish is often preferred as forming a 
better protection against the sun. Workers in the fields 
and the jungle frequently wear shield- like coverings 
i^Kadii) for the head and shoulders, made of leaves and 
cane, or else large conical Shan hats (Gamauk) with 
broad convex rims, about a couple of feet in diameter. 
Made of node-sheaths stitched together with 
cane, these are very light. Completely waterproof, they 
act both as sunshade and umbrella. The Burman does 
not mind getting wet so long as his hair is kept dry, but 
he feels sure he will be attacked with jungle fever if he 
allows that to get damp ; for his coarse black locks, long 
as a woman's, are not easily dried. 

Most of the paper umbrellas in use in the more popu- 
lous parts near the sea-board are of Chinese manufacture, 
imported from Singapore, yet the umbrella-making in- 



dustry Is still largely followed up country, and particu- 
larly around Mandalay. The tide of fashion has here 
also begun so to modify and alter past custom that cheap 
umbrellas of European make are gradually ousting the 
still cheaper indigenous article. But the young Burmese 
woman of a few years ago, with her wavy-lined Tamein 
and a paper umbrella, had a more attractive and artistic 
picturesqueness than her present successor, wearing a 
dull maroon skirt and carrying a black umbrella, or a 
red or green parasol. 

No short account of the minor rural industries can 
be considered complete without reference to cheroot- 
making. Every Burmese female can roll a cheroot, and 
all throughout the province cheroot-making Is followed 
either as a profession or else to eke out other means of 

Though tobacco of good quality Is grown on alluvial 
deposits in the bends of streams, and though cultivation 
is capable of extension far beyond the 71,015 acres now 
under this crop, yet most of the tobacco consumed is 
imported from Madras. Before use it is damped and 
softened with cocoa-nut water, which mellows the other- 
wise highly saltpetrous leaf. 

The cheroot {Sdeik, " rolled tobacco ") made entirely 
of tobacco is, however, an Innovation of comparatively 
recent date. The real Burmese cheroot consists mostly 
of other Ingredients. It is a mixture of finely chopped 
wood, — the dry, dead wood of the Okhne tree (Strebltis 
asper) being preferred wherever available, — ^jaggery, 
chopped tobacco, and other herbs, rolled up in a casing 
of leaves or of the thin, soft inner skin of the sheaths 
growing round the nodes of large bamboos. Some 
of these cheroots are eight to nine Inches In length 
and four t6 six Inches In circumference at the thick 
end. They have a harsh, dry, pungent flavour, a liking 
for which can only be an acquired taste. But the 
Burmese are Initiated to it at the earliest possible age, 
and it is not altogether an uncommon sight to see suck- 
lings being given a smoke Immediately after having been 
fed at the breast. Altogether, however, the Burmese 
infant receives peculiar treatment. Kept at his mother's 


breast so long as she is able to nurse it, or till its place 
is usurped by a later arrival, the child is not infrequently 
passed from breast to breast round a circle of matrons 
when chatting of an evening, just as the cheroot is 
passed on from mouth to mouth for a whiff to assist the 
flow of conversation. 

When a half-smoked cheroot is not required for im- 
mediate further use, the lighted portion is quenched, and 
the stump stuck like an ear-ring in the loose pierced lobe 
of the ear, if the Burman should not happen to be wear- 
ing a jacket containing a pocket ; and when at work he 
is seldom encumbered in this latter way. 

Even the primitive Burmese cheroot of chopped 
wood and tobacco is probably doomed soon to become 
a thing of the past. The consumption of cheroots of 
pure tobacco has been gradually extending during the 
last twenty years ; and now at all the large towns 
throughout the whole length of the land, from Rangoon 
to Bhamo, small cigarettes, onomatopoeiacally called 
SdgaU, are being made with shag and tissue paper and 
sold in the Bazaars and at the corners of the streets. 

Tobacco was originally introduced and regarded purely 
as medicine, as its name {Sd) indicates. But other nar- 
cotics are also euphemiously covered by the same term. 
Thus, while the smoking of tobacco is "drinking medi- 
cine," *' inhaling " and " eating medicine " are polite 
terms for smoking and eating opium, — opium (Bein : 
Senet) being called " black medicine," and ganja or 
Indian hemp (Bin: Sdchatik) being spoken of as "dry 
medicine." Fortunately, however, the preparation and 
sale of these drugs cannot as yet be numbered among 
the rural industries followed by the Burmese, though 
their neighbours on the north-east, the Shans and the 
Yunnanese, grow the white opium largely as a field-crop 
and are habituated to the use of the drug. Nor can the 
preparation and vend of fermented or distilled liquors be 
classed in such a category ; for the whole of the traffic 
in such stimulants is in the hands of Chinamen and 
natives of India, although the Chins and some other hill- 
tribes brew a sort of rice-beer {Kaung), which is largely 
consumed at their tribal festivals. 


Chapter XIII 


BURMA is rich in minerals of various kinds, though 
the two which usually form the surest foundations 
of national prosperity, coal and iron, have as yet nowhere 
been found in large workable quantities or of superior 
quality. Down both sides of the Pegu Yoma range 
of hills, extending northwards from near Rangoon for 
more than two hundred miles, and skirting the Paung- 
laung hills to the east of the Sittang river, there run 
broad belts of ferrugineous laterite which have in past 
times been worked for iron. These abandoned workings 
can still be seen in the forests, and in some cases — as at 
Thanseik, " the place for shipping iron," about twelve 
miles north of Shwegyin on the Sittang river — the 
names of villages sometimes seem to imply that there 
was formerly a regular trade in iron from them. But 
imports of iron are so cheap, and the requirements are 
.altogether so slight with regard to this commodity, that 
l\the iron ores which have been found in various parts of 
the province have never proved of economic impor- 
tance. Nor have the Burmese apparently ever acquired 
the art of transmuting iron into steel. 

Coal is found in the Thayetmyo, Upper Chindwin, and 
Shwebo districts, and in the Shan States, as one of the 
Eocene or early Tertiary rocks forming the Nummulitic 
group, whose chief economic products are petroleum, 
limestone, coal, and brine. It also occurs in Mergui in 
the Tenasserim group of rocks of doubtful age, though 
probably belonging to the Tertiary period. The fuel 
of the country has always been wood, coal never yet 
having been utilized for any purpose by the Burmese 
themselves. King Mindon apparently gave some pass- 



ing attention to possibilities with this product, for in 
1886 a Shan chief and a village headman assured Sir 
Charles Bernard, the Chief Commissioner, that they had 
seen large specimens of coal taken from a pit on the 
Panlaung river (Sittang) and carried to Mandalay. ^ 

As yet no great trade has sprung up in coal-mining, 
though efforts have from time to time been made on a 
small scale. The best coal-tracts are probably to be 
found amid the limestone hills of the Shan country, and 
will be brought to light when the tracts are traversed 
by the railway lines now under project and in course of 
construction. During the past t .velve or thirteen years the 
coal-mining work carried on has not yielded very satis- 
factory results, nor has it in any perceptible degree freed 
the province from its dependence on sea-borne coal, im- 
ported in 1 899- 1 900 to the extent of 33,998 tons, valued 


In 1886 negotiations, begun three years earlier, were 
entered into with a Calcutta company for a coal-mining 
lease for thirty years in the Thayetmyo district, the 
company covenanting to pay a nominal rent on the land 
actually worked and a royalty of two annas or twopence 
on every ton of coal extracted after ist January, 1895. 
After very feeble attempts work was abandoned in 1888. 
Though renewed in 1894, negotiations in a similar direc- 
tion led to no results. 

A more energetic attempt was made at the Lingadaw 
or Kabwet coal-fields in the Shwebo district, which were 
leased to a local syndicate in 1891. Work was begun 
about four miles to the east of the Irrawaddy, with 
which connexion was opened by a tramway, and the 
[Burma Coal Company was formed in 1893 to develop 
the fields. The coal was used on the Burma State 
Railway, and on the steamers of the Irrawaddy Flotilla 
Company and of Government, The output reached 
23,000 tons in 1896, but was reduced to the half of that 
in 1897 owing to work being interfered with by flooding.) 
Declining still further, the outturn was only 6,975 ^^^^ 
in 1898, and 8,105 in 1899. The coal is of fair quality, 
and the fields have an advantageous position with 
regard to rail and river. The average selling price is 



ten rupees (135. 4^.) a ton. The young industry is 
hampered, however, by want of capital. 

Most of the coal-fields discovered as yet have some 
drawback or other to their profitable working. In the 
Chindwin district, the Kal6 fields, on the Myittha river, 
yield an excessively friable coal ; while those on the 
Nantabin and Paletwa drainage have the seams embed- 
ded in soft clay, and are therefore difficult to work. 
What is obtained from the Panlaung river, east of 
Yamethin, at the foot of the Shan hills, yields a dull 
flame, making it unsuitable for furnaces. In the 
Lashio and Namma valleys, in the Shan State of North 
Theinni, now approached by the Mandalay-Kunlon rail- 
way, seams have been found up to thirty feet in thick- 
ness ; but unfortunately the deposits resemble lignite 
rather than true coal, being very light and liable to 
crack when dry, so that they cannot be considered of 
the first quality. In the Laikha State lignite deposits 
have also been found. 

So far as mere reports of officers of the Geological 
Survey are concerned, the Tenasserim valley in the 
Mergui district appears to be one of the richest locali- 
ties in coal deposits. Examined in 1892-93, coal was 
found of two distinct ages, belonging to the upper 
Carboniferous and the Tertiary systems. The former, 
though the more widely distributed, is economically 
worthless ; but the Tertiary coal, found at two places 
(Kyamithwe and Kamapyin) on the western bank of 
the river, is said to be of very superior quality, and is 
estimated to be capable of yielding close on a million 
tons. There is no market for coal in that immediate 
vicinity, however, and the labour difficulty would be so 
great that coal from Bengal could probably be laid down 
in Rangoon or Moulmein cheaper than the produce of 
mines up the Tenasserim river. 

More recently still a perhaps more important discovery 
of coal of good quality has been reported from Lawksawk 
in the Yatsauk territory of the Southern Shan States, a 
tract drained by the Zawgyi river and within compara- 
tively easy reach of the Rangoon and Mandalay rail- 
way line. The coal is said to lie near the surface, and 



to extend over a large area. As Lawksawk consists 
mainly of a table-land varying from 2,500 to 3,000 feet 
above sea-level, the climate is said to be exceptionally 
good for this part of the world, the heat, even in the 
hottest season, not being excessive for Europeans. 

Petroleum occurs in various parts of the province, the 
Arakan oil being clear and limpid, while the Upper 
Burma product is dark, thick and viscous. The Kyauk- 
pyu oil-fields of Arakan were the first to be worked 
directly by European agency. About 1878 the Boronga 
Oil Company obtained concessions in the Kyaukpyu 
district, and commenced operations on a large scale in 
the low hills a few miles from that small coasting port. 
Experts were brought over from Canada, and the work 
of boring into the rock was pushed on in the face of 
many discouragements. In a climate notoriously malari- 
ous for more than the half of each year, the Canadian 
miners, during intervals between attacks of fever, pushed 
downwards with the deep borings through rock. In 
June, 1880, when I visited these oil-fields, they were 
working with tamping-rods at a depth of nearly 800 
feet without having struck an oil- flow, while natives 
working with rude appliances in comparatively shallow 
pits near at hand were having an output up to twenty 
barrels a day. Despite patient, persevering efforts, and 
the outlay of a very considerable amount of capital, the 
Company had to go into liquidation in 1885. Since 
then operations in Kyaukpyu and Akyab have been 
carried on merely by local agency and with varying 
success. The largest yield was in 1892, when 308,091 
gallons were obtained ; in 1899 it was 167,227 gallons. 

Sometimes eruptions of petroleum, accompanied by 
spontaneous combustion, take place in the sea off the 
Arakan coast. Of one such I was an eye-witness early 
in April, 1882, whilst being rowed out from Sandoway 
to the mail steamer moored in the offing. Far north 
on the horizon, in the direction of the island of Cheduba, 
a vast pillar of fire burst suddenly from the sea, shooting 
up for an immense height and ending in great volumes 
of dense smoke. This phenomenon continued for about 
four to five minutes before the column of fire subsided. 



The Upper Burma oil-fields, scattered over the Magwe, 
Minbu, Pakokku, and Mylngyan districts, which form 
the south-western portion of the central dry zone, are 
partly the property of hereditary well-owners {Tiuinza or 
"well eaters"), and partly the property of the State. 
Earth-oil royalties formed one of the seven main heads 
of revenue in the time of the Burmese Government, 
the trade in this product being in the hands of a 
Rangoon firm, which bought the oil from private well- 
owners and worked the royal wells by direct agency, 
paying a royalty of eight annas (8^:'.) per 365 lb. in the 
former case, and of one rupee twelve annas (2s. \d.) in 
the latter. This contract lapsed in 1891, but was 
renewed for another twenty years to the Burma Oil 
Company on payment of a fixed royalty of eightpence 
per 365 lbs. (100 viss). 

The most important of the Upper Burma oil-fields are 
those near Yenangyaung (*' where earth-oil flows "), and 
Yenangyat {** earth-oil barren "), situated along the left 
bank of the Irrawaddy in the Magwe district. Estimated 
to extend over about eighty square miles in all, this oil- 
tract forms a fairly level plateau, ranging from 260 to 
300 feet above the low- water level of the Irrawaddy, 
but much intersected by deep, narrow ravines. The 
strata consist for the most part of laminated and clayey 
sands, while pebbly beds occasionally occur along with 
layers of sand or gravel cemented into rather a hard bed 
of conglomerate. The Yenangyaung fields yielded 
22,111,514 gallons in 1899, and the Yenangyat 
10,030,790 gallons, while the whole output for Burma 
was 32,309,531 gallons, yielding a revenue of ^27,179. 

Within the tracts leased to the Burma Oil, Minbu 
Oil, and Burma Petroleum- Producing Companies in the 
Magwe, Pakokku, and Minbu districts, the rights of 
native workers owning wells in the vicinity of State 
wells have been duly secured by the publication of rules 
defining the areas within which the native workers may 
work, and the rights which they possess. The richness 
of some of the tracts is shown by the fact that experi- 
ments made in 1893 at Yenangyaung showed that new 
wells can be sunk at a distance of sixty feet from exist- 



ing wells without reducing the output of oil from the 

Large oil-producing tracts are still available for leasing, 
and the fixation of the rate of exchange at i^. ^d. per 
rupee has now placed this industry in a much more 
hopeful position than formerly. But speculative it must 
always remain to a certain extent, as the sinking of a 
deep shaft does not invariably result in a flow of oil. 
A boring sunk to a depth of 700 feet in the Minbu field 
by the Burma Oil Company in 1896 failed to strike the 
oil known to exist there. Further borings made by the 
Minbu Oil Company to a much greater depth proved 
equally unsuccessful, and the field was abandoned in 1899. 

About a couple of miles from the town of Minbu are 
the well known curious mud volcanoes or "dragons' 
scratching pits " i^Nagagyit Dwm). From about fifteen 
to twenty feet in height, they continue in a ceaseless 
state of mild activity, throwing up small quantities of 
hot liquid mud with gaseous exhalations which can be 
ignited. The whole country round about there exhibits 
indications of oil-producing strata in the rocks below the 

■ The Burmese method of working the oil-wells is very 
primitive, and has undergone little or no change for 
generations past. A shaft of about four feet square is 
sunk at what is considered a likely spot, though the 
upper soil gives no practical indication of what may be 
expected deep down below the surface. Propped with 
posts of cutch [Acacia Caiechti), which yields excellent 
timber though of rather small dimensions in the dry 
zone, the shaft is sunk till the oil-bearing stratum is 
tapped or boring has to be abandoned. Above each 
well and supported by two side posts is a crossbeam, 
having a central wheel over which a rope passes attached 
to an earthenware pot that is let down to fill itself with 
oil. When first brought up, the petroleum is a thin, 
watery fluid, but it soon thickens and becomes viscous. 
It is of a dirty-brown colour, with a somewhat greenish 
tinge, and has a pungent odour, as is pointedly indicated 
in its Burmese name, Vendn or "foetid water." The 
majority of native wells vary from about 200 to 250 feet, 



and the deepest are only slightly in excess of 300 feet ; 
but the output is largest from deeper wells worked by 
European agency. The oil-bearing stratum itself is 
known to be about 200 feet in thickness at Yenangyaung, 
although it may perhaps be considerably thicker. 

The bulk of the outturn from the petroleum wells of 
Burma finds its way to the refining works of the Burma 
Oil Company in Rangoon, where it is prepared for the 
market. Rich in paraffin wax, Burmese petroleum is of 
great technical value as a lubricator. / Most of it is con- 
sumed in India, as the foreign exports in wax and oil only 
amounted to ^114,159 in 1899, and that was a large 
advance on previous exports. As a luminant it cannot 
compete in purity with Kerosine, of which 4,740,657 
gallons, mostly from America, valued at ^167,052 
were imported into Burma in the two years 1898- 1900. 

Tin, found in the granite of the Tavoy and Mergui 
districts, has lotvg been worked. Over three hundred 
years ago it is said to have been exported largely to 
India.; Operations in more recent times have been 
carried on with varying results, though on the whole 
with comparatively little success. The mine-workers 
are mostly Chinese. Owing to want of an adequate 
water supply during the dry season, work is chiefly con- 
fined to the unhealthy rainy months ; and this, added to 
want of capital and inability to control the truculent and 
quarrelsome labourers efficiently, has hitherto proved an 
insurmountable difficulty to anything like real progress in 
the industry. The Maliwun mines near the southern 
extremity of Tenasserim were leased to a Rangoon firm 
for fifteen years from 1873 ; but after three years the 
lease was resigned, the physical difficulties of the 
country, the malarious nature of its climate, and the 
absence of communication with the civilized world for 
weeks at a time during the busiest season of the year all 
proving serious drawbacks to successful enterprise. In 
1892 a lease was granted for five years, with provision 
for extension for other twenty-one years, a royalty of five 
per cent, being paid on the value of tin exported. This 
advantage was not claimed, however, and mining had 
again to be carried on merely on a small scale by native 



workers. A lease of 400 acres has recently been given 
to a European firm which proposes to introduce hydraulic 
appliances. The industry is of no great commercial 
value, however, the largest output having been 1,339 cwt. 
in 1897, valued at about ;^4.345- As tin is also worked 
in Karenni, north-east of Toungoo, from ore similar to 
that obtained in Mergui, it seems not improbable that 
the stanniferous belts of granite may be found occurring 
all throughout the hills between the Salween and Sittang 
rivers : and if this can be proved, the fact may perhaps 
become of considerable commercial importance. 

Silver and lead have been v/orked from time imme- 
morial, as there was no coinage in Burma until after the 
annexation of the coast tracts of Arakan and Tennaserim 
(A by the British in 1826. Till the reign of King Mindon 
'^ ( (185 2-1 878) the kingdom of Ava had no coinage, pay- 
ments being made in bullion of gold, silver, and lead. 
Even within the last twenty years payment was made 
almost everywhere north of the capital i,n ingots and 
bullion of recognized standards of quality.) The whole 
of the trade at Bhamo with Shan an<l Yunnanese 
caravans was adjusted by such means, in addition to 
direct barter of goods. Mindon endeavoured to introduce 
both a silver and a gold coinage, modelled on the rupee 
and the sovereign respectively ; but the attempt was on 
the whole a failure, as there was no security for the 
quality of the metal, and as this currency was not made 
legal tender. Hence the bulk of commercial transactions 
were regulated by the weighing and assaying of silver. . 
Silver was practically the standard, gold being con- "^ 
. sidered about seventeen times as valuable, while lead had ) 
I only about one-five-hundredth part the value of silver^ 
Payments to the royal treasury took place in "flowered 
silver" (Gnw^bwin), the purest description of silver 
bullion containing only from two to five per cent, of 
alloy. This derived its name from the flower-like 
crystallization setting in on its surface when cooling after 
being poured out of a crucible. There were various 
recognized degrees of impurity, varying up to about 
twenty-five per cent, of alloy. The weighing and the 
assaying of gold and silver were in the hands of Pweza 



or " brokers," and each assay reduced through fees and 
wastage the capital value by two and a half per cent. 
Hence forty mercantile transactions sufficed to dissipate 
any given capital under this crude substitute for a minted 

In many parts of the Shan States, and in Karenni, 
this primitive system still obtains, and interesting speci- 
mens of the " flowered silver " used in place of coinage 
are often procurable in the bazaars. In bargaining, silver 
to about the amount required is poured out from a 
crucible on to a flat stone, and during the process of 
haggling perhaps a few drops more are added after the 
quantity originally poured out has cooled, these drops 
remaining as round blobs or excrescences. In the next 
transaction a piece may perhaps have to be cut off, if a 
smaller payment has to be made. The red Karen and 
Shan who used to come in from their forest wiids to 
Toungoo bazaar about ten years ago, generally brought 
well-wrought bowls of silver, which they exchanged 
against their weight of British rupee coins in order to 
enable themselves to make their purchases in a market 
where barter was no longer the method of trade. 

Galena, rich in silver, is obtainable in various parts of 
the Paunglaung range of hills immediately to the east of 
the Sittang river, but the chief lead and silver mines 
worked of recent years are those at Bawzaing in one of 
the Southern Shan States. After the annexation of 
Upper Burma this industry dwindled, as the miners could 
find no market for the lead in consequence of the prohi- 
bition of its import into the plains of Burmah whilst the 
work of pacification was in course of progress. Since 
1890 this restriction has been removed, and the mines are 
worked to a small extent by a Chinese lessee, who pays 
a royalty of three rupees (four shillings) per 365 lb. 
(100 viss). 

There are many localities throughout the province 
which are capable of yielding gold, yet the great bulk of 
this metal used in Burma for making jewellery, gilding 
pagodas and sacred shrines, and for other purposes, 
comes from China in the shape of leaf-gold. This is 
bought in the bazaars at ever- varying current rates, and 


is melted down to form heavy solid articles like bangles, 
necklaces, and ear cylinders. 

Gold is washed down in small particles by many of 
the streams, and in several places the sifting of gold 
dust from the sands forms an industry on a small scale, 
yielding rather a meagre and precarious livelihood. The 
washings are generally carried on in the beds of hill 
streams, the alluvial gold-bearing deposit being panned 
out in the crudest manner possible in shallow round 
wooden trays. 

All over the country local names are met with which 
indicate at any rate past operi:.tions with regard to gold 
washing. Shwegyin, a large town on the eastern bank 
of the Sittang, receives its name from the "gold sifting" 
still carried on in the bed of the Shwegyin river. In 
various parts of the country are to be found hills called 
Shwedaung or " hill of gold," and inquiries will invariably 
elicit reliable information that gold was formerly worked 
there either by merely washing the dirt from alluvial 
deposits or else by sifting earth dug out of shallow pits 
and trenches. Thus, at the Shwedaung near Tavoy, gold 
deposits were found by a Ceylon planter who settled 
there some years ago. Neglecting his plantation for the 
gold which he had not capital enough to work, he died in 
poor circumstances in 1897, rendered miserable by the 
knowledge of gold being within his reach while he was 
without the means of actually obtaining it. Searching for 
the matrix of gold-bearing quartz and digging into the 
solid rock appear to have been methods quite beyond 
the Burmese, whose acquaintance with minerals is alto- 
gether extremely scanty, even as compared with the 
knowledge of metallurgy obtaining among their near 
neighbours, the Shan. 

It is by no means improbable that, as regards the 
precious metals, the greatest mineral wealth in Burma 
will be found in the Paunglaung range of hills forming the 
eastern watershed of the Sittang river, and spreading 
thence northwards and eastwards across the Shan hills. 
Tin, copper, and gold have been found at various local- 
ities throughout the range. I have myself found gold- 
bearing quartz, in outward appearance and structure 



closely resembling the matrix of the Mysore gold-fields, 
in a locality within easy reach of the Rangoon and 
Mandalay railway line, and with abundant supplies of 
water close at hand for all possible requirements. 

In the Shan hills gold deposits are also known, and 
fields of great magnitude and richness (o7mte ignotum pro 
magnified) are said to occur further to the north-east, in 
the wild Wa country, which will be brought within some- 
what easier reach when once the railway line has been 
opened from Mandalay to Lashio, on the way to the 
Kunlon ferry on the Salween river. 

The only place where gold-mining is as yet being 
carried on in any practical business-like manner is at the 
gold-fields in a portion of the Katha district, which 
formerly formed the Wuntho Shan State, lying to the 
west of the Irrawaddy river. Since December, 1895, the 
quarrying and crushing of gold-bearing quartz has been 
in progress at the Kyaukpazat Mine, situated about 
twelve miles from the Nankan station on the Mandalay 
and Myitkyina line of railway. Abundance of wood 
and water being procurable, operations were begun with 
the erection of a ten-stamp mill worked by a portable 
engine of sixteen nominal horse-power. The yield has 
hitherto been small, only 1,196 ounces being obtained in 
1899 ; but this yield will now be increased by the intro- 
duction of the cyanide process, in 1900, for dealing with 
the tailings. The outturn could, however, be very 
largely increased if the capital of the small company 
were sufficient to enable operations to be conducted on a 
much more extensive scale. 

The Wuntho gold-fields extend over a considerable 
area, the different tracts having specific names derived 
from neighbouring streams or villages. After visiting 
the Kyaukpazat Mines in 1898, I also examined portions 
of the Panzit and Legyin tracts further to the north. 
Here also gold-bearing quartz is undoubtedly obtainable. 
** There's gold there, lots o' gold," said one of the pros- 
pecting licensees — a working miner and philosopher, more 
richly endowed with experience in toiling for the gain of 
others than with lucre and worldly possessions of his 
own — after he had shown me over the spots where he 



had struck the ore within the area of which he wished to 
acquire the lease, " but to work it properly needs at 
least two lacs of rupees (£13,333); ^^d if I had two 
lacs of rupees, I shouldn't be here looking for gold in 

This is a very correct indication of one of the two main 
reasons why gold is not already worked to a large extent 
in Burma. Beyond doubt there are many parts of the 
province rich in gold ; but it nowhere exists in large 
pockets and nuggets, in a form which permits of wealth 
being literally picked up. It will have to be quarried in 
subterranean mines, and crushed and won at considerable 
expense. Capital is requisite, and the industry may be 
safely expected to yield a fair interest for concerns of this 
nature, say about ten to twelve per cent.; but there is little 
likelihood of shares in any such concern rushing up to 
enormous value in consequence of immense harvests of 
gold easily and inexpensively won from the rocks. 

Without being undertaken in a solid, business-like 
manner supported by a sufficiency of capital, gold-mining 
is never likely to make much progress in Burma ; but 
otherwise it should soon be able to establish itself on a 
sound footing as a profitable business resting on a much 
safer basis than most mining enterprises. Hitherto, 
however, most of the mining leases taken out in Burma 
have been applied for by speculators who never had any 
intention of working them except by floating companies 
for drawing other peoples' money into their own pockets. 
During 1899- 1900 several exploring and prospecting 
licenses were issued, and four syndicates, each formed 
with a capital of ;^5,ooo, began prospecting operations. 
The gold is there ; of that there can be no doubt. 

Another cause tending to operate very forcibly against 
the establishment of gold- mining on a proper basis in 
Burma has been the limitations of the mining rules. 
Under the mining rules obtaining in 1898 no lease could 
be given for more than 160 acres, or one quarter of a 
square mile. The practical effect of this is that, for 
example, in the Panzit and Legyin tracts, it would be 
impossible to find a sufficiency of water for crushing and 
other requirements on the leased area or within reason- 



able distance of it. Both at Panzit and at Legyin, 
although convinced that the rocks were auriferous, I was 
equally convinced that gold-mining could not be profit- 
ably carried on as an industry on a large scale unless the 
1 60 acre restriction were cast aside, and one lease given 
for each area. If this were done, then crushing works 
could be located on large main streams having an ample 
perennial supply of water, and the ore could be brought 
by tramways from the various mine-shafts to the crushing 
mills. It is only thus that Government can reasonably 
expect capital to be attracted towards and invested in 
gold-mining in Burma ; and it is only thus that such 
investments can be made to yield a fair dividend of about 
ten or twelve per cent. 

With more liberal rules, however, there are various 
auriferous localities in the Pegu, Toungoo, and Katha 
districts, within easy access of existing railway lines, 
which could yield remunerative returns in gold if reason- 
able inducements were offered to attract capital for the 
introduction of this industry on a considerable scale. 
The new Mining Rules of May, 1899, revised the royalties 
on gold and silver, and reduced them to y^ per cent. ; but 
it is equally important that they should authorize the 
Government of Burma to deal more promptly and liberally 
than hitherto with syndicates having bona fide intention of 
investing capital in mining enterprises, because this must 
be the first essential step towards making mining opera- 
tions possible under conditions favourable for utilizing 
the great mineral wealth known to exist in Burma. 

Jade-stone, which formed another of the many mono- 
polies of the Burmese Government, and was retained as 
such by the British, is found in large quantity about the 
headwaters of the Chindwin and the Mogaung tributaries 
of the Irrawaddy between the twenty- fifth and twenty- 
sixth parallels of latitude. The mine-workers are wild 
Kachin tribesmen, while the dealers in and users of jade 
are Chinese merchants ; and the exports, averaging some 
4,000 cwt. a year, valued at nearly ;^50,c>oo, are almost 
all shipped to Singapore, for distribution thence to 
Chinese and Japanese ports. Very small pieces of jade 
of the purest colour and best quality sometimes fetch 

401 D D 


fancy prices, while great blocks of inferior quality have 
little or no value in the connoisseurs' eyes. 

The most celebrated of all jade deposits is a large cliff 
called the Nantelung or " difficult of access," overhanging 
a tributary of the Chindwin river at a place distant about 
nine days' journey from where the latter receives the 
waters of the Uru from the north-east. But the guardian 
spirits there have been ill-disposed for nearly a genera- 
tion back, in consequence of which work has long 
remained in abeyance. The most productive mines at 
present are those in the country of the Merip Kachin 
tribe, where some of the largest quarries run up to about 
fifty yards in length, by forty in breadth, and twenty in 
depth. Quarrying operations are confined to the dry 
season, being undertaken from November till May. 
Even then the best quarries are generally flooded, which 
greatly increases the labour of working out the stone. 
During February and March, when the floor of the 
quarry or pit can be kept dry for a few hours by means 
of hard baling, large fires are lighted with wood at the 
base of the stone. Despite the tremendous heat evolved, 
a careful watch is kept to detect the first signs of splitting 
in the rock. As soon as these become noticeable, the 
Kachins attack the stone with pickaxes and hammers or 
insert levers in the cracks and thus detach portions of the 
rock. Mortality is high among the jade-workers, as the 
heat is almost insupportable and the labour severe ; but 
the Kachin are jealous of their sole right to quarry the 
stone. Burmese and Shan brokers arrange prices for the 
quarried stone between the Kachin miners and the 
Chinese traders, all payments being made in coined 
silver. From the quarries the blocks of stone are carried 
by coolies to Nanyaseik, whence it is transported by 
water in dug-out canoes to Mogaung, on the railway line 
leading southwards to Mandalay and Rangoon. 

When the British began administering this part of 
Upper Burma, the Burmese system of annually farming 
the right of collecting duty on jade was continued, the 
sale realizing ;^3,333 for 1887-88. The local chief of the 
jade-producing tract levied 3^. ^d. on every load of jade 
leaving his territory, and also received from the miners 



ten per cent, of the sums they obtained from the jade- 
purchasers. The headman at Nanyaseik levied 15. ^d. 
on each load, and the farmer of the right of collection for 
the year claimed an ad valorem duty of 33^ per cent. 
In 1893 this system was slightly altered by extending 
the period of farming the collection of duty from one to 
three years, for the business was found to be of so 
speculative a character that even Chinamen, addicted as 
they are to all forms of gambling, hesitated to pay a long 
price for holding the pool merely for one year. The 
revenue had consequently sunk to only ^^2,400 a year, 
but at once rose to ^3,474 on a three years' lease being 
sold by auction. 

The blocks of jade are mostly taken to Mandalay to 
be sawn up. There has always been a good deal of 
smuggling of stone, to evade payment of the heavy 
royalty to the farmer of the duty. To try and check 
this, a subordinate officer on the temporary establishment 
of the Forest Department was stationed on the railway line 
between Mogaung and Mandalay during 1898 — for jade- 
stone is classed as "minor forest produce," though the 
revenue obtained from it is credited to " land revenue." 
The salary of this temporary Forest Ranger was disbursed 
from money lodged by the farmer of the jade revenue ; 
but, as the Forest Regulation and Rules permit no power of 
search extending to goods, luggage, or persons in transit, 
it is difficult to see what useful purpose he could serve. 
The jade-farmer himself desired this, however, after 
extensive smuggling had been discovered in 1897. 
Moreover, he particularly requested that the post should 
be filled by a Baungbe Wut or " trouser- wearing man " 
and not given to any mere Burmese, Shan, or Chinaman, 
who, though infinitely better fitted for detective purposes, 
would not fill the hearts of the smugglers with awe and 
dread, or show so clearly that the revenue-farmer was 
determined to put an end to such malpractices. 

The way in which the large blocks of jade are mani- 
pulated may be seen any time one drives along China 
Street, the long road leading from the southwest corner 
of the walls of Mandalay city southwards to the Arakan 
pagoda. They are sawn through by hand with piano- 



wire, strung tightly across a bent piece of wood, under 
the action of water constantly dropping from a vessel 
hung above the block. To assist the process fine sand 
is strewn on the stone where the wire-saw works. The 
exterior of the blocks is oxidized to a greyish-brown 
colour, but the ooze trickling down on both sides of the 
stone as the saw passes backwards and forwards is of 
the green colour that one would expect from jade. The 
exterior of the block seems to give absolutely no indica- 
tion of the quality of the jade lying at its core, and in so 
far the traffic in rough blocks is about as complete a mer- 
cantile example of buying a pig in a poke as can be 

The Ruby Mines and their produce also formed another 
of the monopolies of the Burmese King, which was like- 
wise retained for the State under British administration. 
Rubies and spinels are found in several parts of northern 
Burma, as near the jade mines above Nanyaseik in the 
Myitkyina district, and at Sagyin, about twelve miles 
north of Mandalay. But the country around Mogok, the 
headquarters of the Ruby Mines district, is by far the 
richest ruby-producing area that has yet been discovered. 
As the inhabitants of this tract were said to possess cer- 
tain undefined rights of working the mines, subject to 
their selling all the outturn to Government or to farmers 
of the royal monopoly, one of the first duties of the civil 
officer on the occupation of the district at the end of 1886 
was to verify what the rights or privileges of the people 
actually were, and to ascertain in how far these could be 
supported by acknowledged custom or by actual con- 
cessions from past rulers of Ava. All rubies above a 
certain weight were claimed as royal perquisites, and this 
led to the secretion or breaking up of the largest and 
most valuable stones. The Ruby Regulation was passed 
during 1887, and rules were framed under it for the 
control of mining for rubies and precious stones generally, 
and for fixing and realizing the revenues obtainable from 
such sources. 

The great Ruby Mines, forming the Mogok, Kyatpyin, 
and Kathe circles of the Ruby Mines district, are situated 
at an elevation of about four to six thousand feet on the 



southern face of a spur trending westwards from the 
rnain watershed between the Irrawaddy and the Sal ween 
rivers, and forming the drainage between the ShweH on 
the north and the Myitng^ on the south, both tributary 
to the Irrawaddy. At the time of the British occupation 
the ruby-producing tracts were found to be inhabited by 
a motley crew of Burmese, Shan, and Chinese, together 
with local hill tribesmen of Chinese extraction called 
Palaung and Lishaw. Whilst the measures to be adopted 
for the future working of this tract were under considera- 
tion, they were allowed to mine for rubies by their own 
customary methods on payment of small fees for licenses. 
Operations were primitive, resolving themselves into 
three different methods. A Hmydw Dwin or " cutting 
made by the flow of water " might be formed on a spot 
chosen on any hill-side, a stream of water being led over 
it and a gully formed in which the ruby-bearing soil 
(Byon) that collected was carefully turned over and 
searched. Or miners would go down a Lu Dwin or 
" man pit " formed by a natural fissure or a small cave in 
the hills, and dig out the soil at the bottom of this, a 
method confined solely to the dry season of the year. 
Otherwise Twinlon or " dug pits " were sunk to a depth 
varying from about twenty to thirty feet, so as to tap 
the stratum of Byon or ruby gravel in the low-lying 
alluvial deposits where this is found. 

The mining is purely a matter of chance. Whoever 
turns over and carefully examines the largest amount of 
Byon or ruby matrix has the best chance of reaping a 
harvest of rubies and spinels, though chiefly the latter. 
The whole of the small plain of Mogok is dotted over 
with the Twinlon of the native miners, while the hill-sides 
are scored and marked by the water-channels of the 
Hmydw Dwin. In some cases water for these latter is 
brought from a considerable distance, and at a small 
village called Kyaukpyatthat, near the extreme west of 
the ruby-producing tract, a piece of very interesting rough 
Burmese engineering may be seen in the construction, 
with bamboos alone, of a primitive aqueduct conveying 
water from one hillside to another across a miniature 
valley between the two slopes. The intervening space 



from the water-trench on the northern hill to that on the 
southern is bridged over with a trestle-work of big bam- 
boos lashed together to form a series of scaffold- like 
supports upon which bamboos, with the solid internal 
divisions at the nodes perforated, are laid as water- 
pipes, the thin end of each being fitted into the thick end 
of the next bamboo. There is a good deal of leakage, 
but the water is conducted across in sufficient quantity 
to serve the purpose required, so that the object in view 
is attained. Speaking merely from recollection, this 
rough bamboo aqueduct must be about a couple of hun- 
dred feet in length, and from forty to fifty feet high 
where the gully below was deepest. 

Towards the close of 1 899 arrangements for working 
the Ruby Mines were completed by Government, a con- 
cession being granted for seven years at an annual rental 
of four lacs of rupees (;^26,666) to five licensees, who 
floated the Burma Ruby Mines, Limited, on the London 
market. The concession was in the form of a lease 
granting the right to mine rubies by European methods 
and to levy royalties from native miners working by 
indigenous methods. It was some considerable time 
before work could be advanced beyond the preliminary 
stages, much time and labour being spent in the first 
year in bringing up machinery to the mines. From 
Thabeitkyin, on the Irrawaddy, to Mogok, a distance of 
sixty miles, the road passes for the most part through 
heavy jungle, pestilential with malaria from the time the 
first showers of rain fall in May until the soil dries up 
towards the close of the year. The road is not yet com- 
pletely metalled, but up to the end of 1S97-98, only two- 
thirds of it had been metalled, and cart traffic had to be 
suspended from May till October. During these months 
drafts to or from Bernardmyo — a small military station 
ten miles to the north of Mogok, where the left wing of 
a European regiment is stationed for the protection of the 
Mogok and the Ruby Mines district generally — are not 
allowed to proceed up or down the road on account of 
its unhealthiness and of difficulties connected with trans- 
port. There is no danger to the Europeans in Mogok 
from having the troops at some distance, for the Govern- 



ment officers and the Company's European employe's 
form a volunteer company having a strength of over 
forty and well able to defend themselves temporarily in 
case of necessity. In the early days of 1889-90, when 
the Ruby Mines Company began their operations, these 
drawbacks and difficulties of communication were much 
greater than they still are ; for the district was unsettled 
by bands of dacoits, headed by Paw Kwe, a late official 
of the Burmese Government and a man of great local 
influence. Even when these organized gangs were 
broken up, dacoities and robberies on the road were still 
unduly frequent. And at Mogok and Kyatpyin, the 
centres of the industry, the initial operations of the 
Company not unnaturally excited the apprehensions 
and the ill-will of the native miners who had hitherto 
held a practical monopoly of the working of the 

During the first year of their lease the Company ex- 
perienced considerable friction with the native miners ; 
but, about the end of 1890, better relations were estab- 
lished through an arrangement being come to by which 
the latter were freed from most of the restrictions on the 
traffic in rubies, in return for fixed monthly payments to 
be made by them to the Company. A license system 
was then introduced under which, subject to certain re- 
strictions, the licensed miners could dispose of rubies 
and spinels to whom they pleased in return for monthly 
license fees paid to the Company as Government lessee 
of the whole mining tract. 

From various causes the results of the Company's 
working were not so remunerative as had been antici- 
pated by those who competed eagerly for shares when 
the lists were opened for subscription in London. 
Experience had to be bought and dearly paid for, and 
several years passed before so important a primary con- 
dition of success as the determination of the best system 
of mining had been fully considered and acted on. In 
1895 the system of boring mines into the hill-sides, in 
order to tap the pockets or strata of ruby earth found 
there, was discarded in favour of open quarries from 
which the By on was extracted. Under this method the 



whole of the surface soil is removed over considerable 
areas till the matrix of ruby earth is reached at a depth 
of about twenty feet, when this is dug up, trollied to the 
steam cleansing-mill, washed, sieved, sorted, and ex- 
amined, so that the rubies and spinels may be extracted 
from the clean gravel. The machinery used for washing 
is similar to that employed in the African diamond mines. 
Abundance of water for washing away the clay and dirt 
from the Byon, and fuel to feed the mill-furnaces or other 
motive power, are essential requisites for the industry. 
As the forests around Mogok and Kyatpyin have been 
much exhausted by fuel-cutters, — for at an elevation of 
4,000 to 6,000 feet natural regeneration and reproduction 
are not vigorous, — the maintenance of an adequate fuel 
supply has hitherto been both expensive and difficult, 
even although steps were early taken by the Forest 
Department to provide for present and future require- 
ments by the reservation of the areas still under forest, 
and by working them on a simple plan. To minimize 
these drawbacks, and to work in the most economic 
manner possible at Mogok, the headquarters of the 
mining industry, waterworks have now been constructed 
in the neighbouring hills to provide for improved pump- 
ing machinery as well as for the generation and installa- 
tion of electricity on a scale sufficient to supersede the 
use of wood-fuel and luminants to any considerable 
extent, This now enables the central mill to work day and 
night, because the chance of reaping a rich harvest of the 
precious stones is directly proportional to the quantity of 
ruby gravel washed and examined. Operations have 
thus been extended considerably, while working has at 
the same time been made more economical. 

When the picked stones have been sorted in flat 
trays according to size, the work of closer scrutiny and 
classification goes on in the offices. The rubies are 
distinguished from the mere spinels by means of an 
ingenious small instrument, like that used by surveyors 
for measuring offset angles, in which each stone is placed 
for examination. The ray of light passing through the 
stone, being polarized in the instrument, comes to the 
eye as a pure red ray in the case of a true ruby, whereas 



the less valuable, though equally beautiful, spinel exhibits 
a blue tinge. 

Although the Ruby Mines of Burma are perhaps the 
most productive in theworld, the number of pure stones 
found of good quality and high value appears to be 
singularly small judging from the official returns. Thus 
the whole of the export of unset precious stones and 
pearls to Great Britain amounted in value only to ;!^2,c)oo 
in 1896-97, and was nil in 1897-98, the total exports to 
foreign countries for these years being respectively 
;^3,38o and ^540, although the stones found in 1897 by 
the Company alone, exclusive of the outturn by native 
licensed miners, were valued at ;^5 3,497. The only 
exports of unset precious stones and pearls from 1898 to 
1900 were to Singapore and to quite small amounts of 
;^842 and £2^26^. Practically, therefore, the whole of 
the output from the Ruby Mines, with the exception 
merely of a fine stone now and again, is absorbed by the 
Indian market, or is at any rate despatched to India, for 
distribution thence to other countries, so that these gems 
are not recorded among the exports from Burma. The 
necessary consequence of this is that the prosperity of 
the ruby mining industry ebbs and flows in accord with 
the prosperity and the general economic conditions of 

The impoverishment of the general population, and 
the dislocation of trade throughout India on account 
of plague, famine, and frontier warfare in 1897 and 1898, 
reacted at once on the industry in Burma by causing 
cessation in the demand for low-grade stones. This 
depression became at once appreciable through the fees 
drawn by the Company from licenses to native miners 
sinking from ;i^2 7,370 in 1896 to ;;^9,9i9 in 1897, but 
they soon rose again to ;^i4,292 in 1898, and ;^ 18, 265 
in 1899. 

On the expiration of the Company's lease in 1896 this 
was renewed for a term of fourteen years at a rent of 
£21,000 plus a share of the profits. Since this arrange- 
ment was entered into the new mining rules of May, 1899, 
have been issued, revising royalties and fixing those on 
precious stones at thirty per cent, on the net profits 



annually. Under new arrangements concluded in 1899 
the whole of the debt owed by the Company to Govern- 
ment, amounting to ;/^26,666, has been wiped off and the 
rent reduced to ^^"13,333 a year, while the Government's 
share of the Company's net profits has been increased 
from twenty to thirty per cent. This seems a very 
profitable arrangement for the Company, as in normal 
years the fees received from licenses amount to consider- 
ably more than the annual rent covenanted to be paid to 
Government. The dividend of five per cent, announced 
at the eleventh ordinary general meeting of the Company 
in London on September 25, 1S99, was the first dividend 
declared, and the chairman then announced to the share- 
holders that he thought they might reasonably anticipate 
a dividend twice as large next year, as all the Company's 
difficulties had at length been overcome. This predic- 
tion has been amply verified by a twelve and a half per 
cent, dividend in 1900. The value of the stones won 
by the Company reached ;^90,848, including three very 
valuable rubies, one of seventy-seven carats being valued 
at ;!^26,666. 

Except in so far as their operations are on a much 
smaller scale than the Company's work, the licensed 
native miners have an equal chance with the latter in 
discovering stones of value ; and, as a matter of fact, the 
largest ruby that has ever been known at Mogok was 
found in a native mine early in 1897. Speaking from 
memory, this stone was, as I saw it in May, 1897, rhom- 
boidal in shape with a superficies of about 2^ by 2 inches 
and a thickness of about f inch. It seemed good in 
colour, but was so cracked and flawed that it could only 
be expected to yield a comparatively small stone of good 
quality. No value could be attached to it locally, as no 
stone of that size had ever been previously seen or heard 
of in Mogok. On my asking the owner why he did not 
send it to Europe to ascertain its value, he said there 
was only one man in the province whom he would trust 
to take it there, and that was the Lieutenant-Governor 
of Burma ; but, he added thoughtfully, at times he didn't 
feel at all sure that he could trust even him with it. 
And yet this priceless ruby was kept, wrapped up in 



many rags of dirty cotton, in rather a casual way in the 
owner's house. 

TourmaHne is found in the Shan States of Mong Mit 
and Mainglon (Thibaw), immediately to the north and 
south of the Mogok ruby tracts, and plumbago and mica 
are worked in the Twinng6 township of the Ruby Mines 
district. But these are, — like the ruby and the amber 
mines of Nanyaseik, the alabaster quarries of Sagyin 
near Mandalay, the marble rocks of Amherst and the 
islands of the Mergui Archipelago, the steatite quarries 
in the Chin hills and near the An pass crossing the Arakan 
Yoma from Minbu to Akyab, and the limestone pits 
worked at many places throughout the province, — mining 
industries of so trivial a nature as to be unlikely ever to 
affect the material wealth of the country to any appreci- 
able extent. Nearly all of these mines and quarries are 
in places where labour is scarce and dear. 

The province is rich in mineral resources, of which the 
chief are petroleum, coal, and gold ; and now that fixation 
of the rate of exchange has been achieved, mining pro- 
spects are of a much less speculative nature than was 
previously the case. The important amendments made 
by the Government of India during 1899 in the mining 
and prospecting rules now afford reasonable facilities to 
all persons, syndicates, and companies really desirous of 
operating, while the widely increased powers granted to 
local Governments in dealing with applications obviate 
the delay which had before then been unavoidable. By 
granting permission to transfer prospecting leases and by 
the revision of the royalties, so that gold and silver will 
pay seven and a half and precious stones thirty per cent, 
on the net profits annually, Government appear to have 
shown their desire to facilitate the development of India's 
mineral resources generally ; and Burma seems worthy of 
receiving a fair share of the attention which private enter- 
prise may feel disposed to bestow upon mining con- 

In its three chief mineral products — earth-oil, coal, and 
gold — Burma offers a very fair field for enterprise, but 
nothing more. It is not the inexhaustible treasure-land 
that will attract those who hanker after untold mineral 



wealth extending beyond the dreams of avarice ; for its 
main weahh Hes — as in the past, so also in the future — 
in its fertile alluvial plains, its damp climate and copious 
rainfall during the summer monsoon months, and its vast 
forests, rather than in its carboniferous deposits or the 
auriferous rocks of its hill ranges. At the same time, 
however, there can be no doubt that the more liberal 
policy of the present Viceroy and Governor-General of 
India, Lord Curzon of Keddleston, should attract capital 
towards Burma with regard to mining enterprises, as 
well as in respect of various other commercial openings 
— such as branch railways, timber, rubber-plantations, 
cotton, a Land Mortgage Bank, and many other schemes 
— offering fair prospects of reasonable profit, and capable 
of achieving great success under good, prudent manage- 


Chapter XIV 


AS might of course have been expected from a fertile 
tropical country traversed by an enormous river 
like the Irrawaddy, Burma has throughout all historic 
times carried on a considerable amount of trade with 
foreign countries. 

In the earlier periods Arab dhows and other native 
Asiatic craft maintained traffic with it, while direct 
contact with Europe was introduced by the Portuguese 
before the close of the fourteenth century, although 
Marco Polo had previously visited Burma before the 
end of the thirteenth century. During the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries the country was visited by Russian 
and Italian travellers. The first English trader who 
visited Burma, in 1586, was Ralph Fitch. More recent 
details of trade and of the country generally are given 
in the well known Account of the Burman Empire^ 
by Father San Germano, a Barnabite priest, who lived 
in Burma from 1783 to 1806. 

^ The trade possibilities offered by the natural fertility 
of the rich delta of the Irrawaddy were, however, 
incapable of being taken proper advantage of owing to 
the internecine warfare almost constantly being waged 
there since the beginning of the fourteenth century, 
which was indeed one of the main causes of the present 
scantiness of population throughout this fine alluvial 

The first trading connexion between Burma and any 
European country was in 1 5 1 9, when a treaty was con- 
cluded by Antonio Correa, on behalf of Portugal, with 



Byanyaran, King of Pegu, for the establishment of fac- 
tories at Martaban and Syriam (a corruption of Tkanlyin), 
a few miles to the south-east of the present city of 
Rangoon.; Towards the close of the sixteenth century, 
or early in the seventeenth, the Dutch obtained a footing 
on the island of Negrais, at the extreme western point of 
the Irrawaddy delta, and subsequently also established 
factories at Syriam and at old Bhamo [Bamdw) on the 
Taiping river, some distance above the present town 
situated just below the confluence of that tributary with 
the Irrawaddy. 

Early in the seventeenth century (1612) the East 
India Company established factories / and agencies at 
Syriam, and gradually extended their business with 
branches at Prome, Ava, and Bhamo. Disputes soon 
sprang up between the trading agents of different nation- 
alities, and between these and the Burmese ; and about 
the middle of the seventeenth century all the European 
merchants were expelled in consequence of a quarrel 
between the Burmese Governor of Pegu and the Dutch 
agent. In 1680 and 1684 unsuccessful overtures were 
made by the English for the re-establishment of factories, 
and in 1687 they took temporary possession of Negrais. 
In 1688 the Governor of Syriam invited the British 
merchants at Madras to re-establish a factory at Syriam, 
but it was not till 1698 that factories were rebuilt at 
Syriam and agencies established at Bassein and Negrais. 
The Dutch and the Portuguese never returned. The 
French, however, settled at Syriam, and became the 
rivals of the British merchants. 

During the first half of the eighteenth century trade 
went on briskly between Syriam and the British factories 
at Bengal and Madras, even although this was a period 
of warfare between the Burmese dynasty of Ava and 
the Mon Kings of Pegu. During the short period of 
Mon supremacy trade was less hampered than under the 
Burmese rule of Ava. But on a new Burmese dynasty 
being founded by Alaung Payd, in 1755, he succeeded 
in uniting his countrymen and overthrowing the Peguan 
monarchy during the following year. The Peguans or 
Mon were thereafter called the Talaingox " down-trodden 



race " as a term of contempt, a name they still bear and 
apply to themselves instead of their proper racial desig- 
nation. At the same time, to commemorate the victory 
of the Burmese arms, he founded a new capital, in place 
of Syriam, near the great Shwe Dagon pagoda, and 
called it *' Rangoon," pronounced Yangoit in Burmese, 
which means " the conclusion of the war." 

As Alaung Paya would not permit the establishment 
of any factories within his territories, trade at once be- 
came much restricted. Towards the end of the eighteenth 
century it began to spring up again, though under some- 
what unfavourable conditions : for the export of gems 
and precious metals was prohibited, while commercial 
transactions were burdened with vexatious transit dues, 
port charges, and commissions. 

During the war between the Burmese and the Mon, 
both the British and the French had tried to run with 
the hare and hunt with the hounds. The British mer- 
chants at Syriam on the whole gave the larger share of 
their encouragement and assistance to the Burmese, 
while the French took the opposite course and pinned 
their faith on the ultimate ascendancy of the Mon ; but 
the rival merchants all tried to keep on favourable terms 
with the other side whenever events seemed to show 
that this might ultimately prove the successful party in 
the struggle for dominion throughout Pegu. Unfor- 
tunately for the French, Alaung Payd's arms were 
victorious. In 1756, after Alaung Payi had returned to 
Ava, the Takings revolted and attacked Rangoon ; but 
the Burmese King returned, invested Syriam, and rased 
the town to the ground, leaving unscathed only the 
golden pagoda and the other sacred buildings. 

While the conqueror was endeavouring to crush out, 
with a terrible outpouring of blood, the last efforts of the 
Talaing resistance in the Syriam district, he found that 
the French had been assisting them with warlike stores, 
so he put all the Frenchmen to death. Though it was 
discovered that they also had at times assisted the 
Talaings, the English received more favourable treat- 
ment, being permitted to occupy the island of Negrais 
and to establish a factory at Bassein, in consideration of 



their having furnished Alaung Payd with munitions of 
war during the two previous years. In 1758 the 
Talaings again revolted in the south-western portion of 
the delta, and in October of the following year the 
factories at Bassein and Negrais were destroyed, and 
the English agents and employes massacred, on sus- 
picion of having been in communication with the rebels 
and having supplied arms to them. 

On the death of Alaung Paya, in 1 760, the English 
obtained permission from his successor, Naungdaw- 
gyi, to re-establish a factory at Bassein ; but redress 
for the massacre of the previous year was refused 

The ports which were then open along the coast of 
Burma are those which still exist. Commencing from 
the north-west, Akyab, at the mouth of the Koladdn 
river is the chief seaport in Arakan, the other two being 
Kyaukpyu and Sandoway lower down the coast. 
Bassein, about sixty miles up the Ngawun river, the 
most westerly branch of the Irrawaddy delta, and 
Rangoon, about thirty miles up the Rangoon river, the 
most easterly branch of the delta, are the two ports of 
Pegu. Moulmein, near the mouth of the Salween, 
Tavoy, about thirty miles up the Tavoy river, and 
Mergui, on the coast further south, are the seaports in 
Tenasserim. Rangoon, Moulmein, Bassein, and Akyab 
are the principal ports, which are all good harbours 
affording safe anchorage. 

From its position, however, Rangoon was naturally 
bound in course of time to become the greatest trading 
centre. Even under the Burmese rule Rangoon con- 
sequently became not only the principal port, but also 
the only one of any real importance for foreign export 
trade. Early in the last century Rangoon was a sort 
of Alsatian emporium, resorted to by desperate and 
reckless adventurers of almost every nationality. Euro- 
pean countries were represented by a few English, 
French, and Portuguese residents, along with whom 
Armenians, Parsis, and Moguls shared the trade : but 
all were looked down upon, harassed, and greatly 
restricted in their operations by the Burmese. 

416 / 

TRADE IN 1826 

The chief articles of sea-borne commerce consisted 
then of imports of sugar and muslin from Bengal, of linen 
and white and coloured kerchiefs, used as headdresses, 
from Madras, and of miscellaneous iron, brass, glass, 
and woollen goods from Europe ; while the chief exports 
were teak timber, lac, cutch, petroleum, and vegetable 
oils. ' Of these teak-wood, valuable on account of its 
essential oil, which preserves iron or steel embedded in 
it in place of corroding it like the tannic acid contained 
in oak timber, was by far the most important. Large 
quantities were exported as planks for shipbuilding, and 
|two or three shipbuilding yards had been established at 
Rangoon by Englishmen and Frenchmen. This in- 
dustry, and the export trade generally, was perhaps 
stimulated by the curious prohibition against export of 
specie from Burma. Import duty was charged at the 
rate of twelve per cent., ten of which were supposed to 
go to the royal treasury, the remainder being divided 
as commission, in lieu of salary, among the local officials'N 
The export duty on timber was only one per cent., but 
on all other exports it amounted to five per cent, ad 
valorem. In the early part of the century the number 
of ships annually sailing from Rangoon averaged less 
than twenty-five. This had doubled by the time Tenas- 
serim and Arakan were ceded to the British in 1826. 
But, as Pegu was then restored to the Burmese, the 
trade of Rangoon advanced much more slowly than 
would otherwise have been the case. From 1826 to 
1852, the period between the first and the second 
Burmese wars, the average number of sea-going craft 
of all sorts arriving at and departing from Rangoon 
annually was merely 125. Of these only twenty were 
European ships, the rest being coasting schooners, 
Chinese and Malay junks, and Kattu or native craft. 'V 

When Arakan and Tenasserim came under British 
rule in 1826, they were both found to be in a very 
thinly populated condition. Towns which had formerly 
been large and populous had either become reduced to 
the status of mere villages and hamlets, or only existed 
as ruins. 
(After Akyab became a free port, in 1826, British ships 

\ 417 EE 


soon began to bring cargoes of muslins, piece-goods, 
cutlery, and crockery from Bengal, carrying away rice, 
hides, and horns on their return voyages ; and the 
seaport soon became regarded as the chief town instead 
of Myohaung, the "ancient capital," inconveniently 
situated far inland on the Lemru river. Restrictions on 
trade being removed, and security for person and pro- 
perty being assured under British rule, the inhabitants 
soon returned to cultivate their holdings on the rich 
alluvial plains watered by the Koladdn and the Lemru 
rivers, from which they had been driven by their 
Burmese conquerors. As these fertile plains, producing 
the finest rice in Burma, are intersected by a labyrinth 
of tidal creeks, their produce could easily be brought down 
to the seaport by the cultivators. Akyab therefore soon 
multiplied its trade, and became the centre of the rice 
export business from Burma. A large trade also sprang 
up there in salt, which was purchased from local manu- 
facturers and stored in Government Gola or sheds until 
it could be shipped to Bengal. 

At Moulmein, on the other hand, trade had to be 
created. Previous to the cession of Tenasserim, the port 
on the Salween river had been at Martaban, of which 
province (comprising the present Thaton and Toungoo 
districts, and part of the Pegu district) the Burmese 
retained possession until 1852, when they lost both Pegu 
and Martaban, and with these provinces the whole of 
the sea-board. The kingdom of Ava thus became a purely 
inland country, the mere Hinterland of British Burma. 

For many years previous to 1826 English ships had 
ceased to visit Martaban ; and in establishing a port at 
Moulmein, a little lower down on the opposite or left 
bank of the Salween, there was practically no trade in 
view except what could be created. Although located 
in a very favourable position near the mouth of the 
Salween — a river considerably longer than the Irra- 
waddy, which rises in Thibet, traverses Yunnan from 
north to south, and receives the drainage from north- 
western Siam — and although the other portions of 
western Siam are watered by the Thaungyin, Gyaing, 
and Atardn rivers, which join the Salween above the 



TRADE IN 1852 

new seaport, Moulmein has, owing to the rocky obstruc- 
tions which render water communication with upper 
Siam, the Shan States and China impossible by way of 
the Salween, none of the great natural advantages pos- 
sessed by Rangoon as a seaport and as an emporium 
for the collection and distribution of commercial produce. 
The trade which developed at Moulmein was at first 
mainly confined to teak timber. Sawmills sprang up, 
and shipbuilding yards were established, 123 vessels 
being launched therefrom during the quarter of a century 
between 1830 and 1855. Shortly after 1830 a com- 
mencement was also made with the exportation of rice ; 
but, when the second Burmese war led to the acquisition 
of Rangoon and Bassein by the British, the staple 
export trade of Akyab was in rice and of Moulmein in 
teak timber. There was no export of teak from Akyab, 
as the teak tree is not indigenous to any part of Arakan. 

After the annexation of Pegu and Martaban in 1852, 
trade increased rapidly at all the ports. The chief 
impetus to commerce, however, was given at Rangoon, 
through the removal of obstructions to free mercantile 
transactions. The whole of the seaboard having been 
lost to the kingdom of Ava, Rangoon and Bassein 
became almost the only outlets for the produce of the 
interior of Burma, and the only inlets by which mer- 
chandise could reach the upper valley of the Irrawaddy, 
the Shan States, and western China. 'Trade therefore 
soon increased, woollen articles, cotton and silk, piece- 
goods, iron-ware, salt, and miscellaneous articles being 
imported ; whilst rice, teak timber, cutch, petroleum, 
hides, and horns formed the principal exports^ In 1854 
the Sea Customs Department was established, and from 
I St January, 1855, dues were levied at all the seaports, 
while the import and export returns then established 
soon showed how great was the lion's share of trade 
Rangoon had even then secured against all the other 
seaports combined. And this was bound to be the case, 
considering the extremely advantageous position occupied 
by Alaung Paya s town nestling at the foot of the Shwe 
Dagon pagoda. 

Rangoon, from being a small and comparatively in- 



significant place, has within less than half a century risen 
to be the third seaport in British India, being only sur- 
passed by Calcutta and Bombay in the volume and 
extent of its trade. At the census of 1891 it had a 
population of 180,324 souls, showing an increase of 
over one-third on the previous decennial census returns ; 
and its present population is now 232,236, according to 
the preliminary return of the census of February, 1901. 

The approach to the Rangoon river, the main eastern 
branch of the Irrawaddy delta, from the sea is not 
difficult or dangerous at any season of the year. The 
southern sea-face of the province, from Cape Negrais 
eastwards past the Rangoon river, up to the estuary of 
the Sittang, and down to Amherst below the mouth of 
the Salween, is nowhere rocky or dangerous from 
numerous sunken reefs. Flat and shelving, the shoal- 
banks off the mouths of the main branches of the delta 
are the chief sources of danger to shipping, and these are 
guarded against by a good service of lighthouses and 
lightships. After passing the Eastern Grove lighthouse 
marking the entrance to the Rangoon river, the approach 
to Rangoon, situated about thirty miles up stream, is 
easy. The town lies on the left or northern bank of the 
Rangoon river, just above where this receives, on the 
same bank, the waters of the Paziindaung river from the 
north and the Pegu river from the north-east, which unite 
in debouching almost at the same point into the main 
stream. In consequence of this a huge silt deposit, 
known as the Hastings Shoal, is formed, which hinders 
the entrance or exit of large ships during the ebb-tides. 
This is not, however, anything like so dangerous an 
obstruction as the notorious James and Mary Shoal in the 
Hooghly river, while the distance between Rangoon and 
the sea is only about one quarter of that between Cal- 
cutta and the Bay of Bengal. Nor are cyclones and 
dirty weather anything like so prevalent around the 
approaches to Rangoon as they are along the ocean 
tracks leading to the capital of Bengal. Above the 
Hastings Shoal, within the port of Rangoon, there is 
good accommodation for a large number of steamers and 
other kinds of shipping. From where the Pegu and the 




Paziindaung rivers join the Rangoon river the port 
itself extends upwards in a gentle curve for seven or 
eight miles to where the Hlaing river from the north, 
joining the Panlaung creek from the north-west, forms 
the Rangoon river. Throughout this stretch the river is 
about a mile to a mile and a quarter in breadth, so that 
during the busiest season of the year, lasting from 
December to April, large quantities of shipping can be 
accommodated without danger or inconvenience. And 
the anchorage is also good and safe throughout the 
south-west monsoon. 

The original Rangoon founded by Alaung Payd has 
during its recent expansion absorbed all the small 
villages lying to the north-west and south-east of it, which 
have now become incorporated as sections of the city ; 
while the settlements on the right bank of the river have 
also been transformed into busy suburbs, resounding with 
the ceaseless clang of machinery, the noise of hammering 
in the shipyards, the dull droning whirr of rice-husking, 
and the higher-pitched hum from the timber sawmills. 

No other point in Burma could have such unrivalled 
advantages for trade and commerce as are enjoyed by 
Rangoon. The anchorage is better than could be obtain- 
able off Syriam, near the mouth of the Pegu river, the 
seaport in Peguan times. 

Good, broad, deep, and easily negotiable tidal creeks 
bring to Rangoon the produce from the Irrawaddy, itself 
navigable up its main branch for upwards of a thousand 
miles, and gathering in through its tributaries the whole 
of the trade possible throughout an enormous extent of 
rich territory. From the rice-producing districts to the 
north-east and east grain naturally found its way to 
Rangoon down the Paziindaung and Pegu rivers ; and 
even from the valley of the Sittang it could be brought 
by means of the Kayasu creek joining the lower portions 
of the Sittang and Pegu rivers, and navigable for large 
country boats whenever the fortnightly flood-tides were 
in flow. Thus, even before railways had been opened in 
Burma, Rangoon had been able to expand its commerce 
far beyond what was possible in the case of any of the 
other seaports. In 1899- 1900, out of a total trade for 


the province valued at ^20,819,992, ^16,239,884, or 
eighty per cent.^ passed through Rangoon. Since the 
opening of the first short railway from Rangoon to 
Prome in 1877, thanks to the construction of amain trunk 
line of nearly 800 miles in length, opening up land-locked 
areas in Upper Burma, the commerce of Rangoon has 
far more than trebled itself in extent, while the normal 
expansion of trade at other ports has not done very much 
more than double itself. 

The first view obtained of Rangoon, on approaching it 
from the sea, gives but little idea of the busy port that is 
soon to be entered. About halfway up the Rangoon 
river the golden spire of Syriam pagoda is observable a 
little to the east, that having of course been spared from 
religious motives when the Mon capital was destroyed 
by Alaung Paya. Soon after this the great golden pile of 
the Shwe Dagon pagoda is seen right ahead to the north, 
surmounting the knoll overlooking Rangoon, while the 
town itself is more or less hidden by trees, above which 
the smoke from the steam mills is wafted by the breeze. 
When the forts and submarine defences have been passed, 
and the Hastings Shoal is being rounded, the tall 
chimneys of the rice-mills and the corrugated iron roofs 
of their outbuildings, and of the many other hideously 
ugly and unromantic shrines of industry, become more 
plainly visible. Rounding the Hastings Shoal and near- 
ing Monkey Point, the tip of the tongue of land forming 
the south-eastern limit of Rangoon, the rice-mills can be 
seen dotting the Paziindaung river, extending northwards 
along both banks, and sending out long wind-borne 
streamers of dirty smoke from their chimneys. Above 
this, Botataung is soon passed with its rice and timber 
mills, its earth-oil refinery, and the many wharves and 
yards having river frontage. Approaching the heart of 
the city, the central portion on the river's bank, within 
which are congregated the chief shops and merchants' 
offices, the great municipal Bazaar, the Customs House, 
Treasury, banks, post and telegraph offices, law courts, 
and Government offices, the din and noise afford very 

^ All monetary data have been converted into sterling at the rate ot 
one shilling and fourpence per rupee. 



apparent indication of the traffic and bustle of a great 
city. Before the steamer has been brought alongside of 
any of the numerous quays, or the harbour-master has 
had time to assign to it moorings out in the stream, 
opportunity is given of looking around from the centre of 
the port and noting the evidences of commercial activity 
that everywhere surround one. Where Alaung Payd, in 
1755, built a few rows of starveling houses or mat huts 
on a swampy mud bank, which each ebb-tide left exposed 
as a foetid mass of oozy slime, there now stands a stately 
and opulent city, whose broad streets are lined with large 
solid brick buildings, and whose river frontage is dotted 
with quays and wharves, from which merchandise can 
either be stored in huge " go-downs " or else be at once 
loaded on railway trains for despatch into the interior. 
In this central portion, this heart of Rangoon where the 
pulsation of business is strongest, there are no mill yards, 
as land has long since become too valuable for that. On 
the annexation of Upper Burma, the value of land in the 
business centre of Rangoon increased with an enormous 
bound. A small piece of land in Merchant Street occu- 
pied by a ramshackle one-storied building, which changed 
hands in 1885 for between five and six thousand rupees, 
was sold within a year for over fifty- five thousand rupees : 
but this unhealthy phenomenal unearned increment fortu- 
nately soon abated, although of course the value of land 
has increased and must continue to rise normally as the 
city grows in commercial importance. 

In all the suburbs the whole of the available river 
frontage is occupied by mills of one sort or another ; 
while up, and down, and across the river steam launches 
are continuously conveying merchants' employes or 
messengers to and from the mill-yards. All along the 
left bank of the Rangoon river, from Pazundaung and 
Botataung past the city itself, and northwards beyond 
Alon to Kyimyindaing, where the central Government 
timber depot is located, — a distance of about eight miles 
— there is no frontage available which is not taken up by 
wharves, or mills, or buildings of some sort ; while on the 
opposite bank, the Dalla side, in addition to rice-mills 
there are the great timber yards of the Bombay- Burma 



Trading Corporation and other firms, and the docks and 
shipbuilding yards of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, 
whose large fleet of magnificent river steamers has done 
so much for the expansion of the trade of Rangoon and 
the development of commerce over all the river-highways 
of the province. During the busy season, which com- 
mences when the new rice-crop begins to come in about 
the end of December and lasts till the burst of the south- 
west monsoon in May, the pool forming the port of 
Rangoon presents a busy and a noisy scene, unsurpassed 
and even unequalled in any other port of India except in 
the Hooghly river off Calcutta. 

Equally characteristic as the river-steamers and flats of 
the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company are the black funnels 
with two narrow white bands indicating the British India 
Steam Navigation Company's steamers, which throng 
the port of Rangoon and practically monopolize the 
interportal trade along the coast of Burma and with 
British India. This powerful Company, possessing one 
of the largest fleets of mercantile steamers in the world, 
has grown pari passu with the development of Burma, 
towards whose material progress it has assisted in no 
small degree, and with the coasting trade of which in 
particular the Company's interests have been most inti- 
mately associated. They have the mail contracts between 
Rangoon, the ports along the Burma coast, Calcutta, 
Madras, and Singapore, which are all worked with 
exemplary regularity. Twice a week good steamers ply 
between Rangoon and Calcutta at a fair rate of speed ; 
and, if sufficient inducement were offered by Government, 
no doubt the energetic Company would soon organize a 
better service direct with Madras, which is a far prefer- 
able passenger route to Bombay than that via Calcutta, 
with its ascent of the Hooghly and the longer railway 
journey across the Indian continent. 

For many years this was the only ocean steamship 
company which had any direct connexion with Burma or 
did anything for the development of the trade of the 
province. And even now the only competitors it has 
are the Asiatic Steam Navigation Company, which has 
run between Calcutta, Rangoon, Port Blair (Andaman 




Islands) and Madras for the past twelve years, and the 
Bibby line of steamers running once every three weeks 
direct to and from England by way of Colombo and 

Though only of metre gauge, the Burma railways are 
well suited to the present requirements of the